2000s Archive

Easter Memories

Originally Published April 2009
When we started asking about our staff’s favorite Easter memories, we were surprised to learn of such far-reaching traditions as crawfish boils, Mexican chorizo, and … matzos?

In southern Louisiana, the peak of crawfish season perfectly aligns with Easter. To celebrate, families buy 40-pound sacks of the still-squiggling creatures and fire up propane burners for enormous crawfish boils. After church, my family would promptly change into clothes more appropriate for the messy feast and head to my grandparents’ house on the banks of Bayou Lafourche. There, heaps of steaming crawfish, red potatoes, and ears of corn boiled in the seasoned juices would be tossed on a picnic table covered in newspaper. We’d pull crawfish after crawfish from the pile, automatically peeling and eating while catching up with family. Since each tail contains such a small prize of spicy meat, the meal would take hours to unfold, ending only when our lips were too stung with cayenne to continue. —Jacqueline Terrebonne, Special Projects Editor

When my three daughters were still living at home, our family tradition was to make gnocchi—about ten pounds’ worth. We would all don aprons and get an assembly line going. My husband would knead, roll, and cut the dough. The girls and I would take turns pressing the gnocchi pieces over forks and transporting them in shirt boxes (the sides kept the gnocchi from rolling off) to the dining room table and sheet-covered beds so that they could dry. We always served them with wine sauce, an old family recipe. —Margie Dorrian, Production Manager

Grandma Rodriguez makes sure to have homemade chorizo on hand at all times, and her version is hardly difficult: She mixes ground pork butt with a paste of red chiles, cider vinegar, and spices, then lets the sausage mixture chill overnight so that the flavors can meld. When the whole family gathers on Easter Sunday, we eat the spicy chorizo with warm corn tortillas, sliced hard-boiled eggs, and green hot sauce. Not to mention plenty of cold beer. —Leo Rodriguez, Editorial Assistant

I come from a family of devout Italian-American Catholics, and our Easter dinner is pretty classic: antipasti, pasta, roast leg of lamb with asparagus and stuffed artichokes, and the traditional ricotta and wheat-berry pie for dessert. But one of our Easter traditions always surprises people: matzos. On Good Friday, a day of penance and fasting, the women in my family get together to bake all our Easter pies. We try to refrain from eating—but it’s hard when you’re confronted with the salami and prosciutto that you’re cutting up for pizza rustica. To help take the edge off the temptation, my mother sets out matzos, sweet butter, and Easter eggs. There’s no better snack. —Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez, Food Editor

Every year, my grandmother, known as Babee (for “babushka”), her sister Mary, and their girlfriend Rosie would vie to make the best kulich, a rich bread laced with saffron that was the linchpin of my family’s Russian Orthodox Easter celebrations. Each woman would bake more than a dozen loaves of this labor-intensive bread, their phone wires buzzing back and forth as they checked up on each other: “My bread just came out of the oven. Oh, yours just went in? Hmm, I see.” Walking into Aunt Mary’s kitchen and seeing (and smelling) the fleet of loaves—still covered in the paper bags that she used to keep the bread from browning too much—cooling on top of her white enamel coal stove is one of the great memories of my childhood. As we learned the hard way one year, the whole holiday could be wrecked if the bread became too dark. It pains me to admit that I have a competitive streak, but I don’t have to look far to know where it comes from. —Paul Grimes, Food Editor/Stylist

My grandmother was a farm girl for whom prepared foods spelled liberation, so it’s not surprising that every recipe in the first cookbook she gave me began, “Make cake as directed on package.” And every Easter, under her tutelage, I’d turn that humble box of cake mix into a bow-tied bunny rabbit, with the help of nothing more than two round pans, a can of frosting, coconut, and jelly beans. Nothing—not even preparing my own foie gras—has ever given me the sense of accomplishment I experienced each time we made that cake together. In recent years, the bunny has developed multiple-personality disorder. Last year he was pecan with cream cheese frosting; this year he’ll be Meyer lemon with lavender cream. But I don’t think Grandma would mind. He’s still cute as a—well, as himself. —Marisa Robertson-Textor, Research Chief

On the Thursday afternoon before Easter, my family would make the long drive along the Pennsylvania Turnpike to my aunt and uncle’s house in Delaware, the hub of our family-reunion festivities. Though we would arrive late at night, there were always a few people still awake to greet us. We would head straight to the kitchen, where a big tin of my Grama Dot’s sugar cookies awaited us. I loved sitting around the table at that unaccustomed hour, dunking buttery cookies into cold milk, listening to the burble of grown-up voices and laughter, and knowing that whenever my eyelids got too heavy, I could slip away and burrow into my sleeping bag. —Kate Winslow, Editor

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