No traditional Easter luncheon for us this year.
No baked ham. Deviled eggs. Nor scalloped potatoes or pineapple.
No family gatherings around the dining table. Which is fitting, I suppose, since I’ve no dining chairs to gather around the table. A case of poor timing on my part, they’re off being re-upholstered — and my three married children are off celebrating elsewhere. Kara and Kate are at their father’s place in Chandler and I think Bryan and new daughter-in-law Amy are in Tulsa with her family.
Today, we are a trinity of diners — father, son and an unholy ghost of a mother, who once would have ensured she had at least touched based with all her chicks to know their plans, to perhaps let them know they were loved, if not with exact words, at least with action, as in an invitation to dine. Or to drop by for dessert and a visit — perhaps, the perennial pink-swirled sugar cookies, called “Sweeties,” that became, without thought of tradition-making, my signature grandmother cookie. Or maybe, if I had a few kinds souls to help me eat it, my very favorite coconut cream pie.
Alas, it’s chocolate cream pie for us today. My sacrifice for the two I live with, since husband and son prefer chocolate to coconut. But that’s okay since it’s becoming a day for breaking traditions — it will be my husband, instead of me, cooking in front of the stove today. He offered to cook Cashew Chicken over steamed rice. And I accepted. It’s one of my favorite dishes he makes that — as luck would have it — he no longer enjoys. So making it will become his sacrifice for me.
Perhaps all this off-with-the-old traditional meal and ways of celebrating is a good thing to do at Easter — and other holy days, too — at least on occasion. Who knows but maybe the little sacrificial acts won’t bleed into everyday life. But, even if they don’t, it’s good to take breaks from tradition. Because, I confess, tradition blinds me. It makes me deaf. So much that it takes something new to wake me up — to stir me back to life — to the who and what which lies beyond and beneath the traditions of celebration.
So today, having no need to work heart out in the kitchen — for a feast consumed in thirty minutes or less — I’ve been contemplating the what’s and who’s of my life. I’ve thought of the past, about parents and marvelous Easter dinners I’ve been blessed to enjoy. I’ve thought of past egg hunts at my Granny’s house, when the egg-hiders — my mother and her sister Jo and sister-in-law Georgia, who then seemed old beyond years, but — I see far more clearly, now, even with failing eyesight, — were oh so young — as they told us kids to close our eyes and not to peek. As they’d wander off together laughing, toward the front yard with real boiled eggs dyed all the colors of the rainbow. I’ve thought of other hunts that had nothing to do with boiled eggs, the one all the way back to that first Resurrection Sunday, to that young trinity of visitors to Jesus’ tomb — Mary, Peter and John — and how frightened they were to find no body home.
Funny how I’ve yet to think of the future. But, thinking there now, I can’t imagine the thought of breaking the tradition of ham and hunts and family gatherings forever. I cannot bear the thought of never again hosting all of my children and their families to future grand Easter feasts and egg hunts.
Instead, I hope today is only a slowing down, a braking rather than a breaking of Easter traditions. That I’ll soon recover my motherly mojo — not that I ever had a full cup of this, but at least whatever portion I once enjoyed — enough, to gather my chicks home, to a place that celebrates our joined and imperfect past as it builds bridges to some shared imperfect future.
Because no body, but nobody, like Jesus, lives here at this house. Though sometimes, even in the smallest sacrifice, I catch a glimpse of him or two. Maybe a ghost of his holiness. A taste of him on my tongue. If not in the breaking of bread, then in the braking of tradition.
Cashew Chicken, anyone?
Cashew Chicken for Three1/2 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut in thin strips 1 Tbsp soy sauce 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch 1 Tbsp canola oil 1/4 tsp salt 1/2 small onion, diced 1/4 lb mushrooms, trimmed, sliced thin through stems 1 Tbsp canola oil 3 cups cabbage, shredded 1/2 tsp sugar 3 oz cashew nuts, salt rinsed off, dried 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/8 cup soy sauce
In small bowl, blend soy sauce and corn starch and add chicken. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Heat 1 Tbsp oil with salt in wok over high heat. Add chicken and stir-fry until white and firm. Add onion and mushrooms, continuing to stir-fry until vegetables are soft. Transfer wok contents to bowl. Add remaining oil to wok with cabbage and sugar. Stir-fry about 3-4 minutes until cabbage is crisp-tender. Return chicken-vegetable mixture to wok, add cashews and toss to combine. Sir in final cornstarch and soy sauce. Cover and steam for a minute. Uncover and stir until sauce is thickened.
Serve over steamed rice.