A crack at an Easter tradition

March 23, 1997|By Rob Kasper

THERE ARE, in my mind, a lot of "shoulds" surrounding Easter. The weather should be warm enough that you can open the windows. The events of the day should offer some sign that life is on the upswing. And there should be an egg dish that appeals to the cadre of less-than-enthusiastic egg eaters, like me.

Over the years, uncooperative weather and off-putting egg dishes have been sources of my Easter distress. My childhood memories of Easter are that it was an uncomfortable day. The tweed pants I was forced to wear were too hot, too itchy, too unfamiliar.

Moreover, unlike other dress-up events, this one was an all-day affair. I couldn't peel these duds off as soon as I had made the required trip to church or to a relative's house. Instead, I had to wear those confining clothes forever, or at least until the grown-ups finished taking an unending series of snapshots.

If the weather was nice enough for playing baseball, ball playing was still forbidden. No ball playing was allowed in my "good clothes." On the other hand, if the weather was cold and rainy, I couldn't go outside, meaning I was trapped in a house filled with grown-ups who wanted to shake my hand or take my picture.

Now that I am an adult, some of these unpleasant feelings toward Easter have mellowed. I still steer clear of itchy tweeds. But now that I am the guy holding the camera, I have fond feelings for forced photography.

One instance of forced photography occurs every Easter in a gathering in a park in our neighborhood. The kids of the neighborhood, some dressed in finery, some not, are forced to line up against a brick wall and smile for the camera. Each year the tableau changes, some heads moving closer to the top of the wall, some towering over it.

Looking at the photos of these kids gives me hope. As I compare these informal growth charts, I see that, despite some daily evidence to the contrary, there are signs of long-term growth. There is upward movement. There are signs of maturity. Somehow, pushing kids up against a wall and snapping their photos on Easter makes me feel that life is getting better.

Nonetheless, I am still uneasy in the company of that big celebrity, the Easter egg. It is now known both as the hard-boiled egg and, in the lingo of the culinarily correct, the "hard-cooked" egg.

Whatever you call it, I don't like it. I don't like the the way it looks, the way it tastes, the whole Easter-egg package.

I have heard stories about a game the kids of Baltimore used to play a generation or so ago with Easter eggs, called picking eggs. The idea of the game, knocking the tips of two hard-boiled eggs together until the weaker egg cracked, appeals to me. But I recoil at the prize. The owner of the stronger egg got to eat the losing egg.


Recently, I shook off some of my bad attitude about eggs and Easter when I read "The Tuscan Year" by Elizabeth Romer (North Point Press, 1984).

Easter is a time for a fresh start, for sweeping out the old. In Romer's book there is a description of how a family in an Italian valley prepared for the Easter holiday. The woman of the house, Silvana, cleaned her home from the attic to the kitchen, opening the windows to let the fresh spring breezes wash out the old winter air.

On Easter Sunday she made her family a feast of roast leg of lamb and fresh fava beans. But on days preceding the feast, Silvana collected eggs from her chickens and made a frittata, a flat, almost cake-like omelet, tossing in some fresh spring garlic, a plant she pulled from her garden. The plant, which pops out of the ground in late March or early April, looks like a cross between a spring onion and a small leek.

The egg, a symbol of new life, traditionally makes an appearance on Eastertime tables. In this Italian home, the egg appeared as a frittata. The ritual of frittata-making sounded so appealing that I have decided to try it this year. Since I doubt that I will be able to find shoots of fresh garlic in the grocery store, I will use a small leek, which I will slice into thin rounds. I will heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan, then add the leeks and let them soften.

Meanwhile, I will beat four eggs, season them with salt and pepper, and pour them into the pan over the leeks. I will let the eggs solidify on the bottom, in the pan, over very low heat. When the eggs are solid on the bottom, I will slide the frittata onto a warm plate.

From the plate I will flip the frittata over and back into the heated skillet, with the frittata's uncooked side down. I am told that it is much easier to flip a frittata from a plate than to do it in the pan.

When the frittata hardens, the dish will be done.

And at last, I will have an egg dish I can warm up to on Easter.

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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