We drove south from Seattle to Long Beach Washington last Friday, through driving rain and high winds that blew the car sideways with every gust. Water covered the road in places, and pine trees lashed back and forth wildly like palm fronds in a hurricaine. My shoulders ached from the effort of holding the car in its lane for three hours.
The trunk of the car was well-nigh packed with food. Two coolers full, and a box of non-perishables too, because we would be spending the holiday weekend in a little beachside cottage, making breakfasts, sharing dinners with the friends we would be meeting there, and even engaging in a bit of yogurt making. There was no way I would leave our meals to the mercies of the local grocery store, Sid’s IGA. So the car was full of the really important things: fresh farmer’s market eggs, Niman Ranch bacon, a couple of cheeses, coffee, fruit, all of the ingredients for our Saturday night lasagnas. And a case of wine, a bottle of Aperol, and an all-important bag of hand percussion instruments. I knew Allyson’s car would be similarly stuffed with food and musical instruments.
It was a lovely weekend, with time to rest, to eat leisurely breakfasts with Michael, to run on the beach, and to attend Easter mass. I made yogurt with Summer, and sat at the kitchen table watching Summer and Allyson cook, helping a little here and there. We all came together at the table for food and wine and to all talk at once. And the music! Tobin, Jeremy, and Allyson rocked out in the evenings. But mostly, it was wonderful to just be in the presence of some of my favorite people.
Allyson and Summer care about food and it shows. They produced an Easter dinner that was a fitting end to the austerities of Lent. The meal was served in courses. I don’t know why we don’t do this more often instead of gobbling an entire meal at once; when courses are served separately I can really taste each dish, notice its nuances, and savor specific flavors and textures.
We started off with Garlic Soup with Tortillas, Avocado and Lime. The soup was light and fresh, with a surprisingly delicate broth.
Then followed the salad, made from Tobin’s homegrown lettuce, radishes, and Creme Fraiche Citronette dressing. Crunchy! Tangy! Good!
The vegetable course consisted of Roasted Asparagus with Garlic, and Baby Artichokes with Lemon Vinaigrette. I had spent an enjoyable twenty minutes or so during the afternoon, trimming the artichokes with scissors, so I felt a special pleasure in this course. But I wasn’t the only one. The artichokes, having gone soft in their bath of lemon and garlic, were the delight of all. We dipped the leaves in butter and scraped and sighed at what Michael dubbed “hand grenades of buttery goodness”.
We were slowing down a bit by this point, but rallied for the Buttermilk Strata with Portobello Mushrooms and Leeks–a hearty, warming dish that would be equally good at a Sunday brunch. With all of these courses, we had a panful of cheesy, peppery biscuits.
And finally, we rounded off a perfect meal with a poem of a dessert, that Easter institution, Lemon Cake. Even I, an avowed cake skeptic, like this cake. It’s as rich and dense as a pound cake should be, with the zing of lemon juice to brighten it to an almost impossible level.
On Monday morning, Michael and I pointed the car back toward Seattle. And as I drove into the rain, I chewed over the satisfactions of the Easter holiday again in my mind, savoring them.
There are rhythms to life, to the passing of the seasons, and to the liturgical year, with its quiet ordinary time, the solemn waiting of Advent and Lent, the building anticipation of Holy Week, and the feasts of Easter and Christmas. So too, there are the traditions we make for ourselves– rituals that mark the passage of time in our friendships, our families, our communities. And there are those connections that are woven deep into our hearts, a bright golden thread inseparable from the very fibers of the soul.
Oh happy Easter, when the ties that bind us tighten just a bit, just enough to draw us back together, gently, gently.