I’m writing this on Easter Sunday. One of my favorite holidays of the year. What’s not to like about a holiday that as a child meant new clothes and candy and as an adult means spring is on the way and…candy.
As a child growing up in the 1950s and 1960s my parents placed heavy emphasis on tradition. We followed Church teachings for Lent—I still make a Lenten sacrifice, it’s a part of my life. Most often I give up wine, but this year, I gave up eating between meals. My mother was a fabulous cook. Our house was the gathering place for most holidays and especially for Easter. I have a feeling the kids in the family had a lot to do with that.
My Dad had a sweet tooth. He went to Holsten’s in Bloomfield, NJ (yes, that one, where Tony Soprano may have had his last meal) and bought Easter baskets for every child coming to dinner there. Holsten’s made their own chocolate treats in those days (they may still, I’ve been gone for a long time), and they made sugar view eggs too. I had one for a good 50 years until a rambunctious puppy ate it. But, I digress.
Mom had her standards. Easter dinner at my house consisted of leg of lamb (not a fan-then or now) Jell-O mold orange with shaved carrots, broccoli casserole with Campbell’s cheddar cheese soup, (hey, I said it was the 50s and 60s) corn pudding casserole (yummy-she never had a recipe for that-it was her secret), and then for the folks who did not like lamb, a gorgeous roast beef surrounded with roasted potatoes.
Fast forward thirty years. My folks moved to Florida, the rest of the family scattered, and no one was in visiting distance. To make life simple, I took over the holiday dinner duties. Easter was my first. My parents arrived certain I was upholding family traditions, but this child had lived in the South far too long. Instead of wine I offered three kinds of iced tea – sweet, unsweet, and minted. The meat was ham (spiral cut – I was serving 20 with more drop ins-I had good friends in law enforcement and anyone on duty was welcome to drop by whenever they could for a hot meal), potatoes, sweet and white, spinach casserole, corn casserole (alas, not my mother’s), and sautéed brussels sprouts with bacon rounded out the meal. Then there was a large bowl of something that caused my mother’s eyebrows to shoot up to her hairline.
“Where,” my father asked, “is the broccoli casserole?” I explained I didn’t cook with soup. My mother walked over to the bowl of something and lifted some on the spoon. It dribbled back into the bowl (her cut glass punch bowl I might add) and she said, “What is this? It looks like marshmallow soup with oranges.” My Dad instantly perked up—he was eyeing the Easter baskets all lined up wondering if one was for him. I explained about ambrosia. The gift of the South and a joy to the mouth. My mother took a tiny fruit dish and tried some. She gave a bit to my father who instantly grabbed a cereal bowlful.
Sweet tea and ambrosia – sceptics at first, converts made.
2 cans pineapple chunks drained
4 cans mandarin oranges drained
1 cup shredded coconut
1 bag marshmallows
2 cups sour cream
1 jar maraschino cherries, chopped
Mix all together, chill, and serve!