I was reminiscing the other day about all the little Easter traditions we used to have in our family while I was growing up. One of the more memorable ones was the annual Easter basket hunt. My mom and dad would fill our baskets with the colored eggs we had made the day before, add other staples like Peeps, jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, and then hide the colorful baskets throughout the house so us kids could have a little fun hunting up these treats on Easter morning.
However, there is one Easter I have never forgotten, and I was thinking about it the other day with a smile on my face. It was the Easter all of us five kids learned some very important lessons.
The hiding of the Easter baskets was usually my dad’s job, and his imagination for this chore was minimal. The baskets were hidden, but it didn’t take a genius to ferry them out. Behind doors, under coffee tables and on top of dressers were some of his favorite places, but one year he must have had a brainstorm and choose a place no one even thought to look.
The hunt was conducted right after we all trooped in from church, and we scattered like scurrying rats once we hit the door. Cries of “I found one!” would echo throughout the house until all five kids had their loot. While the hunt was on, mom would start preparing our Easter feast.
That was the year dad’s brainstorm hiding place was the stove. Nonchalantly my mother went to preheat the oven, and in short order the house filled with a strange and acrid odor. It quickly became overpowering, and then we noticed tendrils of gray smoke coming from the oven.
I do remember the quick action of my father as he whipped open the oven door and shot the smoking basket with blasts from an extinguisher. The blackened object was quickly flipped into the kitchen sink, where we all stood around it slacked jawed. The remnants of that basket have never left my brain; chocolate bunnies reduced to pools of dripping brown, colorful jelly beans blackened beyond recognition and the grass used to line the basket morfed into a charred, hairy ball. I won’t go into what burnt peeps resemble, especially the pink ones.
Suddenly my little sister went off like a tornado siren. My mother scooped her up, trying to comfort her. “Did that scare you?” she asked, but my sibling vehemently shook her head no. In all the confusion, the Easter basket hunt was forgotten, but as my sister stood there looking at the charred mess in the kitchen sink, it suddenly dawned on her that four of the five baskets had been found.
“Then what’s wrong?” my mom persisted.
“That’s my Easter BAAAAAS-KET,” she wailed, gesturing toward the sink. My mother looked pointedly at each of us. “Well maybe the others will share,” she said.
We squirmed under this scrutiny, but in our hearts we knew what was right. After the house aired out, we all sat down at the kitchen table and dumped our goodies in a pile. Mom extracted the colored eggs to refrigerate, and then each kid took a turn choosing something from the heap. We even let the victim go first. Dad thought this was very diplomatic of us and joined in, but every time it was his turn he only choose a black jelly bean, because those are his favorite.
It was actually kind of fun to divvy up our goodies this way. We stuck with it right down to the last bean, and with peace and order once more restored, our Easter day continued.
This week I’ve included a couple of recipes that feature hard boiled eggs. Most households have an abundance of these about this time of year, and they are a welcome addition to any meal.
But colorful eggs are not the only things that remind me of this holiday. Easter is the start of warm spring breezes, budding flowers and baby chicks and bunnies. And I’ll never forget the lessons we all learned on that fateful Easter so long ago; how sharing is the right thing to do, but the most valuable lesson of all? Never, ever hide an Easter basket in the stove.
Mixed Lettuce Salad with Cucumber Herb Vinaigrette
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. red-wine vinegar
2 Tbs. chopped fresh chives
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbs. nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. prepared horseradish
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 small clove garlic, chopped finely
pinch of salt
2 cups red leaf lettuce
2 cups baby romaine
1/2 cup sliced radishes
4 scallions, sliced
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
Puree the vinaigrette ingredients into a smooth dressing. (This dressing gets better with time, so it can be refrigerated up to three days.) Mix salad ingredients and top with dressing.
Blue Cheese and Egg Dip
6 hard-boiled large eggs
3/4 cup blue cheese
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1/3 cup plain yogurt
salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste
1 Tbs. chives, finely chopped for garnish
In a food processor, puree eggs with blue cheese, lemon juice, yogurt, salt and pepper. Remove to serving bowl, and garnish with chives.