Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easter and Food

I love holidays, if you hadn't already figured that out by reading so far.  I love them for all the family fun we always manage to have.  I love them for all the goofy pictures that get taken.  I love them for the traditions that get played out each and every year, sometimes without us noticing we're making traditions until they're set into stone.  

Easter was always a big deal for us when we were kids.  Not like Christmas big deal.  It was different in its own fantastic way.  My grandma took me shopping weeks in advance to pick out a special extra-dressy dress to wear to church.  I would (of course) choose something with tons of lace and frill.  Usually requiring one of those slips that had crinoline on them (that look like a Tu-Tu).  We would get white gloves, fancy tights, "tappy" shoes in white patent leather, a matching purse, and...wait for it...a hat.  With a bow on it.  Man, I loved those hats.  Do little girls even wear hats for Easter any more?  On Palm Sunday, my grandpa would go to church at the Ukrainian Catholic Church so he could bring home pussy willow branches for us.  Those are distributed, rather than palms, because that is what was readily available in that area of the world.  One spring, we put ours in a vase of water until it sprouted roots.  That tree stands at the front corner of my parents' house to this day.  During Easter Week, we would procure perohi, paska bread, ham, kielbasa, and other delicious foods to devour on Sunday.  I have vivid memories of that feast.  The throwing off Lenten restrictions and literally eating until I can't hold another bite of food.  Some of those foods are my absolute favorite-the potato and cheese perohi, the paska bread, the smoked kielbasa.  When my grandma passed away, one of the thoughts that came to my mind was how to maintain some of our food traditions each spring.  As we cleaned out her house, I stumbled across a cookbook from one of the local Ukrainian Churches.  In it are a few recipes for perohi and paska bread.  So began an adventure...

I had no idea what I was in for.  My grandma was not a cook.  Beyond Velveeta Shells and Cheese or Mozzarella Sticks, she stuck to carry-out.  I once asked her to teach me to make perohi and she told me she'd forgotten how.  Our traditional Easter foods were bought from the Ukrainian Church ladies.  Homemade, yes...just not by us.  Well, that spring, eight years ago I spent hours, upon hours in our kitchen.  Rolling out sheets of potato pasta dough.  Forming scads of filling in my hands.  Boiling pots of water.  Frying up onions.  The next day I tried my hand at making bread.  No idea how to do it, but making the attempt.  The perohi and paska bread were a hit.  Now, eight years later, I have it down to a science.  I won't be spending an entire week in my kitchen.  I have a pasta machine to roll the dough.  I'll  make the fillings in advance.  I'll use my stand mixer to knead bread dough.  I'll slice onions ahead of time.  And on Easter Sunday I'll arrive at my parents with over 100 perohi in hand, two loaves of sweet and delicious paska bread.  No hat anymore, but plenty of food, family, and fun.  

So, what are your Easter traditions?  Any delicious food beyond the expected ham?  Let us know!

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