Sunday, April 16, 2006
Our family celebrates Easter with a breakfast that is like the kinds of breakfasts people might have eaten when they were going to work in the fields all day carrying a 20 pound weight. (We celebrate all holidays this way, but not otherwise at breakfast). This half-sunny, half-cloudy Easter was no exception: me and my cousins and their spouses and children at my Aunt Honey's house.
It's supposed to start at 10 sharp, but there's often a little lag time for the slightly late (no one is really late, because no one wants to miss out on the food). It used to start at 9 sharp when my mother was alive, because she was diabetic and couldn't wait until 10 to eat something substantial. Now that she's gone, the extra hour gives us time to salivate, and decide what to wear. If you haven't thrown at least 3 outfits on your bed and started to swear, you're not really trying.
The menu is traditional, but not unvarying. Always kielbasi (we're part Slovak), always ham and sausage (we like pig products); but never bacon. Scrambled eggs, done with butter and added cream cheese, as well as hardboiled colored eggs. The latter are blessed (as is the butter) and the shells can't be thrown away--they must be burnt or buried (I favor burying).
Always celery sticks and raw green onions, sometimes tomato slices, if Aunt Honey can find some good ones. Always some kind of fruit, sometimes a fruit cup, sometimes, as this year, just very nice strawberries. Always potato pancakes, browned and crispy. Horseradish? definitely.
A platter of sweets, which may vary, but must always include my aunt's famous Danish pastries (prune or apricot). This year there were also bran muffins and an iced butter ring. To finish (if you're not finished already), some jelly beans and chocolate eggs from Malleys.
There's always some discussion of the weather--is it nicer this Easter than last? remember that time it snowed a foot? An exchange of news: who's going to be stationed at Fort Huachaca, someone's new job at KeyBank, how someone else's grandsons are doing. Now that we are older there may be some discussion of blood pressure medication and a good knee surgeon.
This year Aunt Honey had a story about the Danish, and how after she'd made them all she discovered that her rolling pin had a chip out of it. She couldn't decide whether the chip had been gone before she started or not. "I thought about it all night," she said, and then she decided that she couldn't serve something to her family at a party that might have a splintery chip in it, so she made the recipe all over again. Food is important in our family. We told her that they were the better for being made twice, and it was true.
We've been having Easter breakfast at my aunt's for 30 or more years. Before she did it, it was at my grandma's house on Daisy Avenue. I suppose that sometimes traditions are a pain. When I was younger and more annoying, I sometimes postured a bit in front of my friends about having to go to this or that family occasion. My mother is making me go, I would say, probably with a cigarette drooping from my mouth. Sometimes I might have left early because there were other more exciting things I wanted to do (which often involved the opposite sex). But I always went, and now I'm glad I did.
All those earlier occasions are layered over and over themselves, all the kielbasi, the Easter snow, my mother sipping delicately at some pink champagne (only on holidays), my children clutching their money-stuffed plastic eggs, all the Easter outfits that I put together, the spring coat my sister called my "scrambled egg coat" (yellow and white tweed), my father and my uncles gathering secretly (but not really) for a shot, the greening of the lawn, the brave forsythia drowned in rain, every bite of egg and sausage and potato and chocolate--they are in my cell structure and the marrow of my bones. I have been made by them.
Posted by mary grimm at 3:25 PM