What does Easter mean for you? Easter eggs? The beginning of Spring? Pancake day? Growing up, for me, Easter meant all of that and a whole lot more. It is a festival and season steeped in feast days and traditions, born out of the cycle of the church calendar that I grew up with combined with the specific family rituals I continue to love to this day. Whatever your perspective on Easter, there’s something for us all to observe and get excited about.
The endless debate of sweet vs savory pancakes. As I understand it, the tradition of pancakes is based on the idea of getting all the sweet, baking related bits of your pantry into the pan, ridding your kitchen of tasty, sugary goodness before Lent and a degree of sugary abstinence begins. True or false, that’s the reason we were given growing up. Quite where the savory addition of a tuna, mayo and sweetcorn pancake filling came from within that logic, I don’t know, but as I’ve grown up and started my own traditions, I’ve built on and adapted the savory approach to a pancake chilli with delicious, meaty chilli filled pancakes stacked in a baking tray with melted cheese on top – pretty amazing. I look forward every year to a pancake based day of food, whether with lemon and sugar or a savoury twist, I love marking the start of lent this way.
Stuffed with all that pancake based goodness, Lent has always been a time of restraint when it comes to eating. I think it remains the case for many that Lent is an opportunity to give something up – chocolate, or booze perhaps? But let me let you into a dirty family secret – I give you the Refreshment Sun(any)day. There are 46 calendar days in Lent. By my working, that gives me six days to abstain from abstinence given the biblical reference to 40 days of Lent. It helps to be the daughter of a Priest. In many ways, who cares about the rationale. The important thing I’m here to share with you is that a small break from your Lent giving up, particularly when based on eating and drinking, has been a welcome break in our family and another tradition I continue to firmly believe in. A loophole, is a loophole. If you really want to stretch the whole Lent thing, consider giving up giving up. I’ve done this a few times and I have to say, it works a treat.
You would be forgiven for thinking that for a family with a Priest in the fold, Christmas is the big match day. My experience is that Easter is just slightly ahead of the game when it comes to intensity, largely down to the commitments of Holy Week, which begins on Palm Sunday – the Sunday before Easter. With a Dad prone to inviting enough random churchgoers round for food and drink to recreate the feeding of the 5000, the week marks an endurance test for both my Mum and Dad: Dad in and out of Church and Mum rushing round to make sure Easter is set for success and all those stragglers that randomly appear are fed and watered. Good Friday and Fish pie is a mainstay of this week. With a three hour church service from midday – 3pm, you can be sure that many will show up with Dad for a fish pie feast. Whether in the family home or in our respective homes, a fish pie is an essential part of the Easter tradition. Cue the debate about filling: Capers? Eggs? Spinach? Types of fish? It’s enough to enlist a Richard Dawkins vs Rowan Williams debate. And how can we forget the legendary Hot Cross Buns! Did you know that these were originally called Alban Buns?! A 14th century monk – Brother Thomas Rodcliffe – developed a similar recipe to the one we see today called the Alban Bun and they were distributed to the poor on Good Friday. What a fine chap! I wonder what he would think of all of the different types we can get today from the original (and the best) to chocolate, marmite or even chilli and cheese! Maybe next year we’ll do a blog to taste test them all!
The preparation begins on Easter Eve with the house decorated in yellow, the Easter Day table laid for feasting and eggs and chocolate bunnies dotted around the house. The menu? It has to be roast lamb. But like any good celebration, champagne marks the start in our house. We are, after all, recognising the miracle of Jesus rising from the dead, so something bubbly feels like the very least we can do! My favorite bit of the Easter menu is always a mini egg bejeweled pavlova. I’m thrilled to see my brother Ben has included our own take on Easter pavlova in our Easter Feast menu this year so you can have a go yourself!
After all that, you will need a rest on Easter Monday. I highly recommend chilling on the sofa with a leftover Easter egg, a cup of tea and any loved ones that are available to share that with. This year, I guess my husband will do.