We’ve been working through the details of Easter. No Gluten, no chocolate, less meat, more vegetables, no cheese course and so the list goes on. Between all of us there is Crohn’s, a history of cancer, heart disease and then just plain old age. It wasn’t like that 18 years ago when I first started serving Easter dinner. Back then, our health was good and my back could handle just about anything. I built my first dining room table from an old door I found in my buildings basement. I leaned it on a few smaller tables with books under the door to level things out. Down the center of the door I wrapped bricks in bright paper so that the door wouldn’t tip if elbows made their way onto the table. The tablecloth was a light pink bed sheet with an old crochet bedspread on top. I wove brightly colored ribbons in and out around the edges of that bedspread and down the center I threw chocolate eggs covered in foil. It was a celebration of color.
My father asked what he could bring and I had him raise grass in small pots. I placed these on the table with tapered candles coming out of the center of these tiny lawns. I bought flowers at the Union Square farmers market. Not just one or two plants but enough to rival Macy’s floral display. The room burst from every corner with tulips, daffodils, and hydrangea both pink and purple. A week prior I baked butterfly cookies that looked like they were taking flight and from the ceiling I hung paper butterflies to resemble those that had.
The meal was a 4-course affair. Roasted beets over baby mescaline with roasted pine nuts, a dollop of goat cheese and a basic balsamic vinegar and oil dressing. That was followed by the second course which was roasted lamb, a melody of carrots and parsnips in a Madera wine sauce, roasted potatoes, mushrooms, steamed asparagus and gravy made from the lamb drippings. The third course was cheese. I purchased 8 different cheeses from Murray’s Cheese shop in Greenwich Village. I’ve gone there every year since following the store as it moved from one location to another. There was Brie and most likely aged Gouda. Over the years our pallets became more sophisticated to include Amanteigado Cardus, Pyrenees Ossau Vielle all served with Marcona Almonds and sliced apples or pears.
The first year my brother in-law brought home-brewed beer. It was a dark beer specifically brought to pair with the lamb. The first year we learned you never transport home brewed beer by cab and then serve. I’m getting ahead of myself.
The first course went off without a hitch. Elegant is the only way to describe it. Well, as elegant as you can be eating off an old door in a living room. I failed to mention I live in a one-bedroom apartment in Chelsea. What furniture that could be moved was piled up in my bedroom. The flowers hid the rest.
It was Rob, my brother, who opened the bottle of beer as the lamb course started. Just as the lid popped, it exploded onto my ribbon woven tablecloth. In a panic to stop it he put his finger on the spout, which only made the beer shoot out in a blast covering the room in a dark liquid. I remember seeing his finger on the spout but then went into shock as my conscious mind went in and out registering moments in fragments.
Lisa mopping the ceiling
Colleen howling with laughter from the bathroom. She was pregnant with twins and even with two months to go was a very large pregnant woman.
My mother wiping up the tablecloth with a dishtowel.
My dad washing the wall with paper towels.
My mother saying, “Colleen stop laughing, you’re going to give birth in the bathroom.”
I just sat there …. My beautiful Easter destroyed and everyone tip toed around me thinking I might explode like the beer. I didn’t though. I was numb and once Colleen made her way back to the table we sat down again, we pretended as though nothing had happened and began to eat ignoring the hint of beer in every dish.
It was during the cheese course that my brain kicked in again
“Mom, what happened to your collar?”
She looked at me in horror. “My collar, my collar. Why, I am just covered in beer!”
My father added, “My briefs have beer polka dots too!”
Colleen couldn’t contain herself. She headed to the bathroom again and her howled laughter bounced off the tiled walls.
“Colleen be careful or you will give birth in there!” My mother’s warning had no effect.
We all started laughing then and I have to admit it was the beer episode that made us all love our new tradition. We’ve gathered together every year since and others have joined us too. This year there will be 15 at my table. The twins who were nearly born at the first Easter are coming in a day early to help me move furniture. Yes, Easter is still assembled but not to the degree it once was. Now, we are just happy to see one another. As for the meal, we’re still working on the menu: Asparagus, lamb, potatoes…. No beer …. Just wine.