Why hello there, and welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes. Today’s post is probably going to run a little weird, maybe a little somber, it’s hard to know for sure. Why? Well, because today’s post is about my family’s history with a holiday. And those kind of things are always going to be shaped by personal emotions. Emotions made all the more difficult with my father’s ongoing illness. So if I’m less funny than usual, my bad.
Anyway, today we’re talking about Easter, as the title “implies” (a term on the very teetering edge of accuracy.) and how It goes down in my family. Sure, I’ll talk a BIT about broad trends in traditions, and culinary commonalities, but mostly, it’s gonna be about me.
Easter is probably the Holiday I know the Least. -Er.
So, let’s tackle the first thing here: how does my family celebrate Easter? The answer is: very little, and quite a bit. Because, you see, like a Catholic child of somewhat-heretical-divorce, I get TWO Easters.
Truly a wondrous time of the year.
Easter, along with Christmas, is one of the few holidays my family takes a dual approach to. This is…actually not super related to Easter itself being important to us, but rather due to convenience. See, my brother Nathan, who wrote Monday’s post? His birthday is the end of April. My middle brother, Stephen, (who many doubt actually exists, so removed are his world and mine) is born at the start of April. Today, in fact: the 5th. Happy birthday, Stephen! Or at least “Happy Fictional Birthday, Actor we Pay to Pretend to Be Our Brother!” (Some people are convinced that Nate and I are “The Prestige”-level dedicated to the “bit” of our third brother.)
Dibs on Tesla!
On top of that, my maternal grandfather was also born in early April. And I believe at least 1 second-cousin, great-aunt, or other kind of relative was born in mid-April. So my mother’s side of the family likes to hold a big Easter party in April because then they can push all the birthdays into one big party. Rather than having a different get-together every weekend for the whole month, just cram it all into one shebang, and call it a day. They’re a very efficient people.
By contrast, my father’s side of the family takes the day very calmly. This is because of two distinct reasons: population, and division. See, my mother’s side of the family, for many years, was all centered around Salem, OR. And they’re much BIGGER than my dad’s side of the family: my mother has three sisters, and her mother and father both had siblings, and when I was young, most of them lived in “the area”. Within 45 minutes of my grandmother’s house, I had aunts, two cousins, two great-uncles, some second cousins and their children (who are my first cousins once removed), great-grandparents. With an hour of driving, a family gathering of around 15 people could be put together.
By contrast, my father’s family was my dad, his sister, their parents, and his grandmother. And his sister lived in Southern California. It’s a three-hour drive to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Oregon. It’s SIXTEEN to visit the California branch. And trust me, once the drive time hits over five hours, my family’s interest in driving somewhere falls off precipitously. My family made multiple trips to see my brother at college, a trip of five hours and fifteen minutes. But MY college was five hours and THIRTY minutes away, so I was only visited one time before my graduation. THANKS, TIME AND SPACE.
In reality, of course, one has to take circumstances into account: while I was in college, Nate was still in high school, on the track team and performing in school plays. This naturally limited the amount of travel my parents could do without abandoning him. Once Nate moved to college, they had no children in the house, and therefore more free time.
But this is MY BLOG, SO I'LL BE AS UNREASONABLE AS I LIKE, DAMN IT.
What was I talking about? Ah, yes, Easter.
A Mealy Sort of Feeling
So, as I said, my father’s side celebrated more formally, and calmly. We’d wake up at our house, and our mother would have put together baskets of candy and some small toys, and then we’d put on some nice clothes and go over to grandma and grandpa’s house, and have breakfast. Usually, breakfast was an “impossible quiche”, a breakfast that got popular in the 70’s, and that I’ve never covered on the site because it’s honestly almost offensively easy. The dish is a mixture of eggs, milk, and Bisquick, sprinkled with whatever fillings you want. It’s called an “impossible quiche” because the Bisquick-infused egg cooks into a thin ‘crust’ on the bottom and sides while baking, producing a quiche without the traditional pie crust.
I apparently haven't taken any pictures of impossible quiche in the last 2 years, so enjoy this picture of my Easter basket this year. This is after 3 days of eating stuff out of it.
Every year, we’d typically have a ham or bacon quiche, as well as a crab quiche, a dish I was always…so…excited…for. (As you may recall from our 100th Catastrophe, and many others, I have a long-standing distate for seafood) And if this is sounding familiar to you, it’s because so far, this is exactly how my family handles Christmas as well, a process I’ve certainly brought up in the past. I think it took me until college to realize our formula for Easter and Christmas were essentially identical.
Anyway, then we’d do an Easter Egg hunt, where the eggs hid jelly beans or small amounts of money (quarters, dimes, maybe three or so every year had a whole dollar in them), and eventually, we’d have Easter dinner. A big Ham, or rack of lamb, green beans, potatoes, wild rice stuffing, all served on the good china.
Meanwhile, the Oregon side of the family took a much more festive approach to the season. Again, they kind of had to. Instead of keeping three kids entertained for the day, I think I remember years where there were double-digits of “children”, where like, the young teens had to watch the six or so kids ranging from four to twelve in age. The Egg hunt was much bigger, though as I recall the rewards were only food-based: jelly beans, chocolates, M&Ms and skittles.
As it was, in essence, just a family reunion framed around a holiday, the fare was of similar quality: three-bean salad, deviled eggs, hamburgers, so forth and so on.
Two pretty distinct trends in holiday celebration. So, which one is more accurate and authentic to the holiday itself? Let’s FIND OUT.
I’m not going to try and rhyme anything with “Tradition”. It would be simply far too silly an addition.
Woo, buddy. What a question I asked just now. If you’re unaware, “what’s a more accurate and authentic Easter tradition” is one of the FOUNDATIONAL questions of Christianity. Like, “treated equally as important as ‘which books are we keeping in the Bible’ during the Council of Nicaea” levels of foundational. And the reasons why are…complicated.
Look, I’m not a biblical scholar. I studied Theatre and Philosophy in college, and only lightly touched on various ecclesiastic courses. Still, I have made some study of it, so understand that what I say here is simply my understanding of events, which may be flawed due to a surface-level understanding or mis-remembrance.
Basically…well, basically Easter is just Passover, but hijacked for Christianity. Seriously, the name for Easter in Latin and Greek is “Pascha”, while Passover in Hebrew is “Pesach”. And if you see the words written in Aramaic and Hebrew, it’s very clearly a “copying the other kid’s answers and changing them a little” situation.
This took me ~6 minutes in MS Paint. And that's why I write instead of making Digital Media.
This isn’t quite as much as a dick move as it may sound. As you may or may not know, three of the Gospels describe the Last Supper as being a Passover dinner. So the death and resurrection happened the same week as Passover, so it makes sense that, at the time, the two were written down as roughly the same thing. Like how people call Dia de los Muertos, “Mexican Halloween”: the two events are related in a much more complicated way, and technically have almost nothing to do with each other, but it’s an easy summary.
Anyway, basically, in early Christianity, when, exactly Easter was supposed to be celebrated was a little complicated. Some people said “Hey, if it happened on Passover, let’s just ask the Jews when Passover is every year, and do it then.” Others said “Well, wasn’t that when he was arrested? Let’s do It the Sunday after Passover, since that’s about when he’d be coming back.” Eventually, the sides started bullying each other, and some other Christians said “Hey, why do we have to keep asking the Jews when our big holiday is? What if they count it wrong?”
Seriously, this all happened. And it all happened CENTURIES before the word “Easter” was even invented! That happened around 725 AD, when an English monk said “Hey, we should have a word for Pascha in English. It keeps happening on “Eosturmonath” (“The Month of Eostre”, a Germanic/Old English Goddess), so let’s just call it ‘Eostre’.” And everybody said “sure”, and centuries later, Old English became Middle English became Modern English, and “Eostre” became “Easter”. (And before anyone calls me out saying I’m claiming Pagans invented Easter, no. The celebration was Jewish and Christian, it just stole a NAME from Paganism, and also, fun fact, NO ONE OTHER THAN THAT MONK ever claimed there was a Pagan goddess named “Eostre”. He may have just made her up, or misheard some other goddess’s name, or simply was the only person in the right place at the right time TO write it down.
Whoa-oh Black Bede, Bambalam
I'm certain that someone's youth pastor has made that joke before.
I could go on, discussing Easter Eggs and other traditions, but I’m a food blog, and I just spent 500 words talking about Christian doxology in the Pre-Millennial era (Meaning, “before the year 1000”, not “Before Smart-phones and Facebook.) so let’s try to drunkenly stumble toward the safety of our default setting, yeah?
In short, there’s a couple things that are traditional for Easter meals. Lamb meat, because of the symbolism with Jesus. Bread is quite common, connecting to the last supper. Eggs show up a lot, as do salads. It’s a season of growing, when the animals are producing again, and the world is coming alive, so foods that connect with that growth. Sweet breads and cakes are also very popular, probably connecting the idea of the Last Supper to the sweetness of the Resurrection, or some other business.
So, which of my family’s traditions are more accurate? Hard to say. The Festive nature of my mother’s family is more in keeping with the celebratory spirit of the day. But the specific food choices of my father’s family are more in-tune with tradition. So it’s something of a wash, I guess.
Of course, my PERSONAL Easter Tradition is boiling a Ham in Coca-Cola, because AMERICA.
Yeah BUDDY, COKE HAM.
So maybe it’s not all about what’s the most “accurate”, but what best suits your home.
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MONDAY: JON AND NATE JOIN FORCES FOR PINCHOS MORUNOS, A NAME THAT DEFINITELY LOOKS LIKE I’M INSULTING THEM.