An Easter Brunch of Earnest Emblems
Food is love in my family. If someone is sick, we supply them with tempting things to eat. Growing up, one of the first things we talked about as we planned a vacation was where we were planning to eat. The same is true for holidays, any holiday of the year. The holiday meal is one of the first things we plan, as it holds within it a sweet mix of family traditions, memories, and recipes. It is also a way to share some of the new dishes we have been enjoying with each other.
I wouldn't say we are "luxury" food lovers, but good food can be simple if it's prepared with fresh ingredients and love. It can also be playful or meaningful. How do you have "meaningful" food, you may ask? Well, let me share a few ideas for how to have an Easter Brunch filled with small symbols of the season. I will just mention here, that most of these symbolic foods are religious in nature, but also have other spiritual origins as well. Perhaps you already enjoy these foods, but had no idea why they are symbolic of the season.
Here are a few of my favorite traditional Easter dishes, along with the meaning and traditions behind them, that can be served all together at one big meal, or can be eaten throughout the day as the hunger arises.
Hot Cross Buns
Cross buns, sweet yeasty buns with currants or sultanas decorated with a cross, have existed for centuries, likely even predating Christian associations with the cross. For those in Christian communities throughout the world, hot cross buns are baked and eaten on Good Friday, the symbolic day of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
While most commonly eaten on Good Friday they are also known to be enjoyed throughout the season of Lent, all the way through Easter Monday. The buns baked on Good Friday, were believed to hold spiritual powers, and a single bun was often kept and dried out to heal the sick and protect the endangered.
Eggs on Toast
The egg is a symbol of spring, new life, and resurrection, and is used at Easter in a variety of forms: painting, dyeing, hunting, rolling, and more. However, eating eggs is one of the best ways to enjoy them at Easter. Often, eggs are paired with toasted bread, as a symbol of the Last Supper and sacramental rites.
My family traditionally serves a version of Eggs a la Goldenrod, with boiled eggs in a cream sauce served over toasted English muffins. However, any sort of egg and bread combination will work: creamed eggs on toast, eggs in a basket, or eggs Benedict, or eggs Florentine. What is your favorite way to enjoy eggs and toast? Don't forget the brass toast stand!
Yogurt is one of the oldest known fermented foods. As best as we can tell, eating yogurt was used by ancient goatherds in the Fertile Crescent. Some historians believe that the "land of milk and honey" as referenced in the Hebrew bible, or Old Testament, is believed to have been speaking of yogurt sweetened with honey, a food that contributed to Abraham's long, healthy, and fruitful life.
Honey, oats, and red berries added to yogurt are often symbolic of the sweetness, abundance, and sacrifice that we experience and hope for in life. We love serving these little parfaits in our handmade ceramic yogurt pots.
Lamb or Roasted Ham
Eating ham or lamb at Easter is a tradition that has been practiced for centuries in many parts of the world, particularly in Western countries with Christian traditions. One theory about the origins of the Easter ham tradition is that it comes from the Jewish Passover, which is also celebrated around the same time as Easter. During the Passover, Jewish people traditionally eat a roasted lamb, which symbolizes the sacrifice of a lamb that God commanded the Israelites to make in order to spare their firstborn sons during the 10th plague in Egypt. When early Christians began to celebrate Easter, they may have substituted lamb with ham, which was a more common meat in many parts of Europe.
Another theory is that the tradition of eating ham at Easter comes from the fact that pigs were often slaughtered in the fall, and their meat was preserved throughout the winter months. By the time Easter arrived in the spring, the cured hams were ready to be cooked and eaten, making it a popular choice for the holiday feast.
In modern times, the tradition of eating ham or lamb at Easter has become deeply ingrained in many cultures, and it is often served alongside other traditional Easter foods such as deviled eggs, hot cross buns, and roasted vegetables. While the exact reasons for this tradition may vary from region to region, the common thread that runs through all of them is a celebration of new life and renewal, which are central themes of the Easter holiday. Slicing through the baking twine, with one of our olive wood knives, is often symbolic of "cutting the bands of death", as Christ did symbolically with the resurrection.
Asparagus is one of the earliest vegetables ready for harvest in early spring. Asparagus is a spring vegetable that typically comes into season in March or April (depending on the region), which happens to coincide with Easter in many parts of the world. Eating seasonally can be a way to celebrate the arrival of spring and enjoy fresh, locally grown produce. Its rapid spring growth became a symbol of the Resurrection, when Jesus rose from the dead after three days, in some places, so it seems to suit the Easter palate.
As our family has grown, adding spouses and children, we typically task out different dishes to each group or person. We love sharing the different recipes we find, but there are always a few staples that are made the same way year after year. It's a tradition after all! What are your families traditional Easter foods?
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