18 Feb Easter is a celebration of faith
I grew up in the era of Easter Sunrise Services — there are a few of those still holding on. We always wore new outfits, and had a sumptuous buffet of ham with all the trimmings for lunch. Easter baskets, chocolate candy and “stuffed eggs” were a regular. Having a propensity toward the dramatic and theatrical, I always loved the fanciful array of Easter bonnets in church on Easter Sunday morning, and managed to either watch portions of “Easter Parade” (Irving Berlin’s wonderful music with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire) or create my own rendition of the movie by parading around the house with great pomp and circumstance! I was always a bit too high class (in my opinion) for the strains of “Peter Cottontail.” Funny, how we view ourselves and our heritage!
In our home, we select those major focus points to decorate for Easter — not to “push the envelope” with over decor, but the soft celebrations and cultural delights. This normally consists of Easter baskets, various forms of eggs collected through the years, and as much forsythia, jonquils and red bud blossoms as we can gather.
My mother had painted all the children their own personal china eggs — we still use those, and then we have a collection of marble eggs. One year, a local discount store featured marbleized eggs for $1! We sent out a “911 egg call” to all the family to visit every discount store in Arkansas and sister-state area to gather up these unique dollar marble eggs. To this day, we have enough to fill the Easter basket of everyone in the 501 area code!
One tradition we still enjoy is filling the plastic eggs with various forms of money, mostly loose change and $1 bills, and hide the eggs for all to find. One year, when our children were still all young, we went to Toad Suck Park to hide Easter eggs; the children did not know we had stuffed the plastic eggs with money. Some of our five children were less than enthusiastic about hunting Easter eggs (they “seemed” to be a bit old for this) but when the eggs were opened and the results were tabulated, there was a mad scramble for every egg left hidden! We have often laughed about the fact that things are not always as they appear.
Food is a major part of Easter as well. One of our favorite dishes that serves as a centerpiece for our table is the Easter Basket Salad. The recipe came from the Ward family — an incredible family of wonderful cooks and musicians! We have shared this recipe with many cooking classes and television segments, and it still makes a regular appearance on the Bingham Easter table! The Easter Egg Bread and the Boule de Neige (Chocolate Snowball in the form of an Easter egg) are also two dishes that make their regular appearances.
As long as it is possible, we’ll celebrate Easter with “He is risen, indeed,” be thankful for the hope that purifies, and probably will not wear jeans to church on Easter Sunday. I can’t see my wife in the floppy garden bonnet with tulle and cascading gardenias, but I wouldn’t mind it. It’s a lot like wearing a fur coat — not everyone can “pull it off” with confidence but my wife, could, if she chose too!
I do own a pair of white shoes — and according to the “etiquette rules of the South,” it is permissible to wear white after Easter.
This year, I probably will not eat Reese’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Eggs, or even too much of the braided egg bread. Too bad, isn’t it — when time catches up with us and the heart yearns for what the body refuses to deal with as it did in the past.
The delight of Easter for us this year will remain the far more than entertaining thought of what the Resurrection season is really all about, and just one chocolate truffle may not hurt!
Easter Egg Bread
12 eggs in shell, uncooked
Easter egg coloring
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
Grated rind of 2 lemons
2 packages dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110-115°)
2 eggs (at room temperature)
4 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (about)
1 egg, beaten
Tiny colored candies
Wash 12 uncooked eggs. Tint shell with egg coloring; set aside.
Scald milk; add sugar, salt, shortening and lemon peel. Cool to lukewarm.
Sprinkle yeast on warm water; stir to dissolve. Add to milk mixture with the 2 eggs, slightly beaten, and 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat until smooth.
Stir in enough remaining flour, a little at a time, to form a dough that is easy to handle. Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 8 minutes. Place in lightly greased bowl; turn dough over to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm place free from drafts, until doubled — about one hour.
Punch down; cover and let rise again until almost doubled, about 30 minutes. Make two large braided rings or 12 individual rings as follows:
Large rings: Divide dough into 4 parts. Form each part into a 36-inch rope. On a greased baking sheet, shape 2 of the ropes into a very loosely braided ring, leaving space for 6 eggs. Repeat with other 2 ropes of dough for second ring. Insert 6 tinted eggs in space in each ring.
Individual rings: Divide dough into 12 parts. Form each part into a ring around a tinted egg.
Cover and let rise until doubled. Brush evenly with beaten egg. Sprinkle with decorating candies. Bake in moderate oven (375°) 15 minutes for individual rings, 20 minutes for large rings, or until lightly browned. Serve warm. Makes 2 large or 12 individual rings.
Note: Easter Egg Bread can be baked the day before. Refrigerate. At serving time, reheat in moderate oven (350°) for 8 minutes.
Easter Basket Salad
with Avocado Accompaniment
8 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
Red, yellow and green food colorings
1 large head Boston lettuce
1/4 small head chicory
1 small avocado
1 small tomato
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup dairy sour cream
2 teaspoons grated onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Fill several small deep cups with water. Stir in few drops food coloring into each to tint pink, green, yellow, orange or other colors of your choice. Place 1 egg in each cup; let stand, turning several times, until delicately tinted. Remove from water; drain on paper toweling. Repeat with remaining eggs; chill.
Wash lettuce and chicory; dry well. Separate leaves; chill.
Cut avocado in half; pit and peel; mash well in a small bowl. Dice tomato and stir into avocado with mayonnaise, sour cream, onion, salt and lemon juice; chill.
Just before serving, line a large salad bowl with small leaves; break remaining leaves into bite-sized pieces and place in bowl; top with chicory. Nestle eggs in greens. Pass dressing separately to spoon over each serving. Serves 8.