Friday, April 6, 2012

A milestone and some Easter memories

Today it's a year exactly since I started this blog, on Good Friday 2011. Like I said back then I'd been wanting to do something like this for a long time, and though it might have seemed a little counter-intuitive to start it on the very day that traditionally food has been rather restricted, it's worked out really well. I've had a lot of fun sharing recipes, tips, observations, and also have enjoyed being able to showcase guest posts by others writers. One year old, and A la mode frangourou is one of those things that's now firmly embedded in my writing, and cooking, life!
Today it's Good Friday again so it's time again for the traditional Good Friday meals. Mind you in my case it doesn't mean the boiled potatoes and boiled fish we used to be given on that day when I was a child(as I wrote a year ago, the one day of the year when everyone in the house went around with a long face at the prospect of what Maman was going to put on the table in front of us!) No, for me now it means fish, yes(for symbolic reasons vegetarian food just doesn't cut it for me on this day, even though it's just supposed to be a meatless day), simply but still nicely-prepared, grilled maybe(it's to be mackerel this year), sprinkled with salt, pepper, herbs and lemon, served with simple vegetables and a salad. No butter or sweets and certainly no Easter eggs! A pretty pathetic kind of penance, you might say, given I actually like fish a lot, and really just symbolic. But symbolism is important to me, and I must say I find it impossible to eat any kind of meat on this day, no matter how tempting that lovely free-range ham looks, or that delicious sausage, or that juicy steak. As to Easter eggs, they stay firmly in the cupboard till Easter Sunday.
Looking back to childhood Easters, I remember the Easter egg hunts my dad used to send us kids on, first thing on Easter morning, before even we went to Mass. In French Catholic tradition, it's the 'cloches de Rome' the bells of Rome, which are supposed to bring children the chocolate eggs, not bunnies and the like. It was connected of course to the fact that bells would ring out all over French towns on Easter morning in celebration of the Resurrection. But as an imaginative yet practical child, it always used to puzzle me, just trying to visualise the mechanism by which bells would do this. It was easy enough to imagine le Pere Noel racing through the skies with his sleigh piled high with presents; it was quite another to imagine a bunch of bells swinging wildly around on a journey from Rome,with their hollow bellies filled with eggs. They must be capped with something, I thought, to stop the eggs from falling out, and just how big must they be?
But unlike with le Pere Noel, the bells of Rome were not something my father really worried about keeping up in our imaginations, and so very soon their name was only invoked as a kind of starting-gun for the egg-hunt.
My siblings and I would race out into the early-morning garden at our place in Sydney, and ignoring the dew still pearling on leaves and diamonding cobwebs, frenziedly searched for the flash of metallic blue or green or silver or gold or red that announced the presence of a little egg. They were always little ones; the main egg was reserved for the Easter lunch table where it formed the imposingly, mouthwateringly large centrepiece of a magnificent dessert. Of course your success in the hunt was often predicated on your age, speed and ruthlessness, but at the end of it, if the littlies didn't have enough of a haul, the bigger ones had to share, willingly or otherwise! It could be a bit of a stressful experience, like competing in a race; but it was always fun too. It ceased when we hit our sardonic and sneery teenage years--but I always remembered it with affection, and so when our kids were little, I kept up the tradition for a few years, though only mentioning the 'bells of Rome' in the context of my own memories.

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