Saturday, April 3, 2010
Holy Saturday to Easter Sunday
Holy Saturday: Christians throughout the world are in mourning for the death of Christ.
And according to ancient tradition, on this day Jesus went down into hell to rescue the patriarchs and prophets and all the virtuous men and women of the Old Testament, and to take them with him to heaven. This rescue is called the "Harrowing of Hell": Christ robbed or pillaged Hell of the faithful souls in it.
But we cooks really do have to look ahead, to live in anticipation of what is to come next--and that is Easter joy and the Easter feast: the breaking of our Lenten fast in a grand, glorious way.
Easter is the fundamental, the original, the most important feast in Christianity. Christ has (or soon will be!) risen from the dead. It is on this extraordinary fact that the Christian religion is based; Christ triumphed over sin and death. And we are invited to share in his triumph.
So you will forgive us cooks if we talk about and plan for Easter now, while we are still in penitential, mourning, fasting mode. ("To everything there is a season"--so true! But cooks are always, of necessity, just a bit ahead of the season!)
The dishes associated with Easter are among the most symbolically marked of all Christian foods, primarily because they are rooted in the Jewish passover traditions and they also reflect the meaning of Jesus as the Lamb of Sacrifice: thus, lamb and bakery items in the shape of lamb are favorites. Also, of course dishes featuring the egg--a symbol of immortality: new life emerges from the death of the tomb-like shell. Some dishes accentuate the breaking of fast and abstinence--the reintroduction into a great feast of foodstuffs that had been given up for Lent: loads of butter, eggs, cream (many people have renounced these delicious foods during Lent). Easter dishes based on ham and pork may also point to the Christian break with Jewish dietary law--but it is also true that many people, over the centuries, have just plain loved pork!
A Continual Feast offers recipes for many traditional dishes for Easter. One of our family favorites is the Lamb Cake, which is great fun to decorate with children. In my family, some are coconut lovers, some are not (well, actually, they hate coconut). Our solution to this difficult dilemma?--a tiny contribution to peace in the world: the lamb is richly coconutified on one side, with plain (but delicious) white icing on the other.
A blessed Easter to all of you from all of us!