Happy Holidays 3 (Easter:1960s)

The Best Easter on Record 

On Easter Sunday the family came to our house and my mother always made Lasagna.

While it was derived from the same recipe my grandmother had given to Aunt Kay, it did not quite taste the same as hers. Aunt Kay’s sauce always had tomato pits in it, creating unwanted little crunchies that always seemed to get stuck between my back molars. My mother’s sauce was far better than Kay’s and not bad for a woman who had never even heard the word Lasagna when she was a child. She usually subscribed instead to The Bible of Southern Cuisine, whose first commandment reads:

And if thee findeth that it can be fried, so then shall ye fry it.

The family debate on this day would then center on the various merits of the potentially numerous methods of making Lasagna, what does or what does not go in it or it and then whose recipe was better or best. It was just another circular, no-win conversation: Is sausage the best? Or is it hamburger? Should it be a mixture of both and if so how much of each? Do you use whole milk or part-skim mozzarella? Should the Ricotta cheese go on separate layers? What is the best way to enhance the Ricotta taste? What’s the best baking temperature? Do you cover it all the way through the cooking or just at the end? Do you put Mozzarella on the top? Do you braise the top or just let it rest?

After that they got onto the noodle nuance debate; followed once again by the argument about sauce versus gravy.

It would be foolish of anyone to think that chicken and salad did not come next.

However on this date we actually got a real dessert when the Southern tradition finally broke through the Mediterranean shield. No stale cookies fruit or nuts . And beside plain delicious Hershey’s chocolate Easter Bunnies instead of mystery center-filled generic Whitman’s samples, my mother always made a lemon chiffon pie and a southern pecan pie, both served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Nothing could be finer.

Then predictably every year when Uncle Jimmy had a piece of the pecan he would remark that it was unbelievable anyone could make a pie from a nut. He called them Pee-cans, the proper pronunciation being Pee-cahn; which generated yet another round of debates over pronunciation.

Every time he said this, my mother would defuse the issue by asking him:

  • So Jim. Then do you know exactly where you have to store your Pee-cans?”

He would say:

  • No.

Then she would say:

  • Under your bed.

The response being:

  • Huh?

They had the same conversation for over a decade and for over a decade Uncle Jimmy fell for it every time, never getting it right because in truth it was unlikely he really got the joke in the first place.

  • So Ruth? I still don’t get exactly why you would keep a can of nuts under your bed.

 

On this day there were no special songs to commemorate the risen Christ or any child prodigy music recitals. Perhaps instead we should have just rolled a giant rock around the house to commemorate the opening of Jesus’ tomb, as that exercise could not have been any more ludicrous than the Festival of the Coconut Cake on Christmas. As a child the concepts were difficult for me to grasp. Jesus: First he is born, then four month later he rides into town on a donkey, within a week the Romans kill this holy man instead of a thief; and then after three days of funereal mourning, he comes back to life again on Sunday. Black dresses and veils for Friday. White dresses and bonnets for Sunday.

However on one particular Easter, Uncle Jimmy had a car trunk load of brand new, never before played 78-speed recordings of classical, jazz, and operatic music pieces. By that time 33-speed recording was in vogue and I suppose they were not marketable, so he just gave them to us boys. Nobody seemed to even remotely think anything of their potential future value to a collector.

So while our oblivious parents sat around the table gassing, gossiping and quibbling after dinner, my cousin Jimmy, my brother, and I spent the better part of the afternoon heaving the vinyls by the hundreds from the bank in front of our house into the woods across the street. We watched in glee as they sailed like a fleet of invading flying saucers that one by one smashed into thousands of pieces against the trees: The original Frisbee festival.

Years later when the building lot where we had thrown them was developed, our neighbor came over one day to ask my father if he had any idea why his new lawn had begun to repeatedly spit what appeared to be hundreds of broken record fragments.

My father said he didn’t know.

He was telling the truth. 

 

Columbia recordsFly me to the moon

And let me sing among the stars

Let me see what spring is like

On Jupiter and mars

(Frank Sinatra)

Photo source: Wikipedia

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