Easter Fare and How to Serve It

This is the fourth article in March of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on March 24, 1907, and is a discussion on eggs and why they are so popular at Easter.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Boston Sunday Post.

Easter Fare and How to Serve It

A CORRESPONDENT writes as follows:

“Why eggs at Easter? Inasmuch as we have been surfeited with eggs and fish for forty days, why not give us a rest from them and a change of diet now that Lent is over and done with (thank goodness!) for the year? I foresee that your Easter talk will be of eggs! eggs! eggs! when a fair majority of your readers would be glad not to see another for six months to come. Why not discourse instead of the juiciness and savory steam of roast beef and the tender sweetness of spring lamb?

Of course, I know this protest will be of no use. Whatever we, the mal contents, may feel, think and say—and write—the Christian world will go egg-mad on Easter Sunday, and every breakfast table display eggs in some disguise or unadorned on Easter Monday.

Yet, why egg sat Easter—I repeat with agonized emphasis—more than on July 4th, or on Whitsunday or on Shrove Tuesday?

MADELINE (Philadelphia).

A woman who is neither so bright, nor to well educated as “Madeline,” “supposed” seriously in my hearing, the other day, “that everybody eats eggs at Easter because the hens all over the country begin to lay just then, and eggs are cheap after being so high all winter.”

I was reminded—although I kept the reminiscence to myself—of a man who once remarked to me, “How lucky it is that Lent is appointed at a season when fish is plenty and cheap. But, of course, the fellows who set the time—whoever they may be—stand in with the fish merchants and make a good thing out of it!”

He was more or less of a fool, but Madeline has brains, and knows how to put her thoughts into words.

Before entering upon the business of setting our Easter feast in order, let us reason together for a few minutes as to the significance of the Easter egg.

DOWN FROM ANTIQUITY

A noted scholar observes, in connection with the custom among the members of the Greek and Roman Catholic Churches of exchanging gifts of eggs on Easter morning; “The practice of presenting eggs to our friends at Easter is Magian, or Persian.” It is, then, of more remote antiquity than is generally supposed. Whatever it may have meant in the far Orient, we find the Jews adopting the Paschal egg as the emblem of the renewed creation of the world in the spring. The Passover Feast fell at the same time as what the Christian Church calls the first Easter. The word “Easter,” which occurs in the Book of Acts in King James’ version (twelfth chapter, fourth verse), is “Passover” in the Revised Version. The Paschal (Passover) egg of the Hebrew became the symbol to the early Christian of the Resurrection of the crucified Christ. We, who adopt the custom of dyeing Easter eggs, seldom bethink ourselves of the fact that the primitive Christians used but one color in their Easter day offerings, and that red, in allusion to the lifeblood shed on the cross as “a ransom for many.”

It was an age of types and symbols. We, living in the clearer light of revealed and established religion, retain some of these, and employ them as illustrations of belief rather than guides to devotion.

Even the staid burghers of our Dutch ancestry, staunchly stubborn in Protestantism, clung to an observance repudiated by their New England brethren as “Popish.” Washington Irving tells us that in the reign of godly Peter Stuyvesant there was “a great cracking of eggs at Paas, or Easter.” “Paas” was an evident perversion of “Pasch” or “Paschal.”

I have answered “Madeline” at greater length than some readers may think expedient, and, it may be, more seriously than she expected. The subject is interesting to devout believers in what the crimsoned egg represents, and curious to those who like to trace the origin of faiths and usages we are prone to take for granted.

SYMBOLS OF RESURRECTION

To the ancient Greeks the butterfly was an emblem of the immortal soul springing into new and more beautiful life from the dead chrysalis. The Christians deduced the glorious fact of the resurrection of all the blessed dead from the rising of their Lord. They saw in the broken shell of the egg the symbol of what they incorporated into their Creed; “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”

Of this we have a more eloquent and a fuller promise in the return of the flowers after the apparent death of winter. Every blade and bud and blossom has its message of cheer to the waiting heart. “There is no death.”

A “Schoolgirl” asks:

“Why do we make so much of rabbits at Easter? The shop windows are full of them, and they show up on Easter cards.”

Divers reasons are given for the conspicuous part taken by Bunny in our great festival. One is that he bounds gayly to the front, made over as good as new by much sleep underground. According to a German story, the mission of providing Easter eggs for poor children whose parents could not buy them was committed to compassionate rabbits, who, at that season alone, laid eggs of varied hues by the nestful in the fields. Hence the custom that still prevails in some districts of hunting eggs in the meadows and woods on Easter morning.

May I add a word of practical “application” to my Easter sermon? A sermon must have an application, you know.

We hear much of “Easter offerings.” If ever our hearts should be moved to thankfulness to the dear Father of us all, and to love of our fellow-men who are—with us—His children, it is at this season of awakening to new life. Woe look upon a fresh and lovely world—the same we have known and loved so long, yet renewed into beauty that is never old nor tame. Spring is the time of promise and of hope. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. In token of this glad gratitude, let your Easter offering be for those to whom life is less bright than it is to you.

“God scatters love on every side,
Freely among His children all;
And always hearts are lying open wide,
Wherein some grains may fall.”

Recipes to Prepare Easter Dishes

A Hen’s Nest for Breakfast

SIX hard-boiled eggs that have been thrown into ice-cold water as soon as they were boiled, to make the shells slip off easily. Five minutes later, roll each gently on the table, cracking the shell without breaking the egg. Peel off the shells; cut the eggs in half with a sharp knife; take out the yolks, rub to a powder and mix with the same quantity of cold chicken or of ham, minced. Make a soft paste by working into the mixture some good gravy; season to taste, and form into balls of the same size and shape as the original yolks. Pack into the whites, to resemble whole eggs. Arrange these in the middle of a hot platter; surround with fried potatoes, cut Into strips to simulate straw; set the dish in the oven, covered, just long enough to heat the eggs to the heart, and serve; or, you may make the paste softer with gravy and heat it to a boil in a saucepan before filling the hollowed whites. It will then take less time to reheat in the oven. In either case, potatoes and gravy must be hot. Pass more gravy with the dish.

An Easter Luncheon Dish

Prepare the hard-boiled eggs as directed in the preceding recipe and make the paste as before, of pounded yolks and chicken, tongue or ham. Have ready and hot a good gravy—of chicken, if you have it—add a teaspoonful of curry powder, mix with the mince; heat over the fire and add enough browned flour to make it just thick enough to mould. Stuff the eggs, put the halves neatly together in the right shape and lay upon a bed of rice in a platter. Surround with more rice, to make the “nest”; set in the oven to heat, and serve. Pass with them a boat of gravy, seasoned with curry.

A delicious accompaniment to any preparation of curry is bananas that have been left in ice until very cold. Serve one to each eater, who strips off the skin and slices it, or bites a bit after each mouthful of hot curry. If you can get short bananas that look (almost) like eggs, the pleasing effect of this dish will be enhanced.

A Duck’s Nest

Boll, chill and halve as in preceding recipes. Set the yolks in a bowl, and the bowl, covered. In boiling water at the side of the range. With a thin, keen blade shred the whites into imitation straw, and arrange them in the shape of a nest on a hot platter. Season with salt and white pepper, butter abundantly, cover and set in the oven. Now and then butter again, lest they dry and shrivel.

Work the pounded yolks into a paste with an equal quantity of minced cold duck (or turkey). Moisten well with butter, and bind with a beaten raw egg. Make into oval balls to imitate eggs; arrange within the fence of shredded whites; pour over all a cupful of rich drawn butter, and set, covered, in the oven for ten minutes to heat.

An Easter Swan’s Nest
(“Among the Reeds”)

Make a quart of blanc mange, and while it is cooling to blood-warmth make holes in the small ends of twelve eggs and empty them. As each is emptied hold it under cold water until it is full and lies at the bottom of the bowl. Leave the eggs in the water until all are ready. Pour out the water and fill the shells with the liquid blanc mange. Set them upright in a pan of meal or flour, and let them stay there until Easter. An hour before you wish to serve them break away the shells carefully and deftly, not to injure the consistency of the blanc mange. Have ready a layer of shredded citron in the bottom of a glass dish. The citrons should not be too finely cut, as it stimulates coarse grass and flags. Heap the eggs upon this layer, make a wall of coarse-spun sugar about them and stick upright in this the largest strips of citron yon can get out of the candied melon. These are the “reeds.” Dispose them as naturally as possible, keeping the design in mind, and using taste and ingenuity to carry it out.

Any housewife who is blessed with a fair share of both may get up the dish to the satisfaction of the family.

An egg and a little of the spun sugar (it may be had from your confectioner), with a “reed” or two, go to each “help.” Pass ice cream or plain cream and powdered sugar with the eggs.

You may vary the dish by coloring the blanc mange, dividing it into several portions when first made. Color one with chocolate, another with spinach juice, a third with cochineal, and leave one-fourth white.

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