Tomorrow is Good Friday and our family Easter meal will be on Sunday. Both Hitoshi and I are not religious but this time of year is important for me to celebrate one of my grandmothers. How will we do this? Through food, of course!
My grandmother was Romanian with roots in Bukovina and she married a Ukrainian man. While they spoke a mix of Romanian and Ukrainian at home, they were active in the local Romanian church and the big food events of Orthodox Christmas in January and Easter in the Spring were decidedly Romanian. (That said, there seems to be a fair bit of crossover with the foods.)
Growing up with these mega food extravaganzas, the following lessons were ingrained by the time I was 8 years old.
#1 – Fight for your food, especially the cabbage rolls, even if your opponent (usually a cousin) is older, bigger and stronger.
#2 – Wear a skirt with an elastic waistband.
Rule #2 was critical. Grandma was the oldest of over 10 kids, grew up on a farm and married young. Grandpa’s situation was similar. While Grandma didn’t have as many kids, the ones she did have were big eaters and having a ton of delicious food around didn’t help. It was normal for Grandma to make enough food for the meal, care packages for each person and extras to last another day or two. If you ever get a chance to go to a Romanian wedding, funeral or memorial service or even a regular Easter brunch, you will no doubt be in for a feast.
Grandma didn’t use recipes. My cousin aka opponent tried to extract her cabbage roll recipe in her later years and, the last I heard, was still not able to replicate her genius. My dad found a shop in town a few years back that makes them pretty close to what we remember.
The next critical dish is perogies, however you choose to spell it. We bought those too from that same shop as the cabbage rolls and will give them a try. Grandma’s cheese-filled ones were the best. Dead last in my books were the poppyseed ones.
It wouldn’t be Easter without sausage and we still buy it from the same shop my grandma used for all those years. The owner died years ago and his wife still works there, refusing to use anything but a scratch pad and pencil to record purchases. Dad checks and corrects her work every time – she tends to shortchange herself.
Another staple is the bread. Over the last few days, we have searched the Internet, old cookbooks and our memories to figure out how to make my Grandma’s delectable cheese bread. We’re going to cobble all our research together to create something hopefully close this Saturday. Yup. We need a whole day to get the meal ready for Sunday. Those cabbage rolls have to bake for three hours!
In preparation for the bread, I made a second test loaf today. What do you think?
I was too lazy to get the strands long enough to braid them into a circle. That’s okay though. The cheese bread will be made in a circular pan with the dry cottage cheese and dill mixture set in the middle. I’m already drooling.
If you celebrate Easter, do you have any special foods you enjoy making or, more importantly, eating? If Easter is not part of your calendar, what foods fit with special events during the year?