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Early Easter
March 26, 2005

Hard to believe that Sunday morning we’ll don our Easter bonnets, grab our baskets—at least some of us—and hunt for Easter eggs tucked under the azalea blossoms.  What’s Easter doing, coming in March?

            But this year’s March 29 is not the earliest possible Easter. I thought I’d go to the Internet and learn how the date is set, but it’s complex.  Suffice it to say here, Easter is always in spring and always on Sunday.  It can fall between March 23 and April 25.  The exact date is tied to the “Pascal full moon” which occurs around the vernal equinox.  

            That’s Easter in the West.  Christians of the Eastern or Orthodox faith use another calendar and calculation method.  In Athens, Moscow and Istanbul, they’ll be celebrating Easter on May 1 this year.

            We associate Easter with the Jewish observation of Passover—that night in Egypt when the first born of the Jewish families were passed over.  Occasionally, Passover and Easter fall together, but again because of the difference in calculations, the dates often vary.  This year, Passover will begin at sundown on April 23 and continue through the day of April 24.

            All three commemorations share the drawing together of families and the sharing of bountiful food.

            I’ve decided that instead of spending time adjusting the calendar, I head for the kitchen to cook up good food and some good fun.

            Here’s a great recipe for a Jewish favorite that incorporates what many homes will be full of this weekend — hard boiled eggs.

Chicken liver pâté

4 hard-boiled eggs, reserving 1 for the garnish

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 medium clove garlic, crushed

1/3 cup soft margarine 

1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt

1 pound cooked chicken livers (kosher if possible)

20 grinds black pepper

Generous pinch of ground nutmeg

            Gently sauté onion and garlic in the fat over low heat until browned, but not burned. Sprinkle onions and garlic with salt as soon as they begin to wilt.

            Slice 3 of the hard-cooked eggs in half. Refrigerate the remaining egg to be used for garnish.

Scrape the sautéed onion, garlic, and drippings into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Blend until smooth. Add hard-cooked eggs, cooked chicken livers, black pepper, and nutmeg. Process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, keeping in mind that flavor will increase during refrigeration.

Scrape chicken liver mixture into plastic wrap-lined decorative mold or bowl. Cover with another layer of plastic wrap, pressing wrap to touch the top of the pâté, refrigerate at least 12 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, take pâté from refrigerator and remove plastic wrap covering. Invert onto a decorative dish and remove bottom layer of plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour, and then grate remaining hard-boiled eggs over the top before serving.

            Serve with warm bread or on crackers. 

            May be refrigerated up to 5 days or frozen up to 1 month.

Eggs everywhere

Celebrating with springtime eggs is a tradition all across Europe that goes back before the Christian era.  The ovals are symbolic of new life and rebirth.  The eggs are delivered not by the Easter Chicken, but by that seasonal favorite, the Easter Bunny, who hops by early. The frisky beast, sometimes called the Easter Hare, is symbolic (no surprise) of fertility, given its proclivity for frequent multiple births.

            When I was a child the Bunny left a basket full of eggs and other goodies at the foot of my bed.  When we’d gulped down one or two for breakfast (not to mention jelly beans and chocolate eggs!) we’d run outside and have our own Easter Egg hunt.

            Not that we didn’t trust the rabbit, but usually the night before with great mess and fun we’d dyed plenty of eggs ourselves.

            While we drew pictures with the little wax pencil or a birthday candle and then carefully lowered the eggs into the coffee cups filled with dye, my dad launched out on stories of when he was a little boy, “and we didn’t have these fancy dyes.  We had to make do with what we had at home.”

            What they had at home was plenty of eggs and the onions left over from winter. 

            I’ve tried this.  It makes a pretty egg and isn’t nearly as messy as all those cups of colored water.  (When we went to sunrise services on Easter morning, our hands looked like stained glass windows!)

Country Easter eggs

eggs (as many as you want)

Yellow or red onions

Fill a large pan with water and let it boil.

Peel several onions and put the peels into the boiling water.

Let the water simmer for about half an hour until it is very dark.

Let the water cool without extracting the peels.

Take fresh eggs and put each into a fine net. (The bag lemons come in works well too.)

Fix the net around the egg firmly with a thread.

Boil the eggs in the onion-peel brew for about 15 min.

Take the eggs out of the water.

Remove the net.

Cool the eggs.

Serve on a large dish.

Use beet juice to get the red-colored eggs, spinach juice to get the green-colored eggs. For more elaborate ornament, use various-textured fabrics or nets.  To make the eggs shine beautifully, rub them with a piece of bacon. 

            If you aren’t into dying eggs but want a fun decoration try this. 

Egg shell planter

Grass seed

Potting Soil

 Colored markers

Empty egg shell

            (To empty an eggshell, poke a small hole the size of a pin head at each end and blow out the inside gently.)

Crack the hollow egg on the small end and gently break off the pieces until you have a small bowl. Go about a fourth of the way down. Fill the egg with potting soil; leave a little room at the top. Sprinkle the soil with grass seed and cover lightly with more soil.  When the grass is fully sprouted, place in a sunny window.

            Now you can decorate the egg with the markers.  Use stripes or checks to match your décor, or the kids will want to draw silly faces to go with the green hair.

            If you have a resident house cat, she’ll like it if you make her one and put it on the floor.  It makes a dandy kitty snack.

            It maybe a little late to get these going for Easter Day, but if you do them now, they’ll be lovely (or fun) all spring.  Or wait and make them to celebrate Orthodox Easter on May 1.

            Meanwhile, enjoy our beautiful early Easter. 

           


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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network