As coincidence may have it, Easter Sunday (emblematic of fertility, along with spring's reawakening and rebirth of nature through the miraculous story of Christ's resurrection) collides with April Fools Day, a prankster's field day, in 2018. Paying homage to these two mismatched celebrations, here's a look at weird and freaky Easter foods and customs across the lands — and that's no joke!
Wonder whose sanity was being challenged when the Easter egg was coupled with the Easter bunny? Germanic folklore lays a solid claim to the creation of the "Easter Hare," an astute mammal skilled at judging whether children were naughty or nice during the springtime season of Eastertide, and rewarding the good ones with a bountiful basket of vibrantly painted eggs, candy and toys.
According to the legend, the four-legged, pink-eyed Santa Claus-esque creature delivers the treats to the homes and gardens of the obedient children on Easter eve, then the next morning the kinder scout out the eggs on a traditional Easter egg hunt. The custom of the Oschter Haws (Easter rabbit) bunny hopped over to America with the wave of German immigration to Pennsylvania in the 1700s.
Until this day, treats that pull us into the holiday spirit are iconic chocolate bunnies, and all manners of eggs, including hand-painted, hard-boiled ones. And, of course, Dr. Seuss' contribution of green eggs and ham would be an appropriate way of kicking off this Easter/April Fools' Day.
In the French town of Haux, 4,500 eggs are cracked to concoct a grand omelet in the town square every Easter. This culinary custom dates back to the Napoleonic era when the Emperor, who adored omelets, ordered members of the town to whip up an enormous scramble for his army.
Down under, while eggs are enjoyed during Easter, the rabbit is persona non grata, considered a mammalian pest destroying the Australian ecosystem and millions of dollars of crops every year. As a result of the bunny blight, Aussies have ousted this beloved Easter symbol using a quirky little pointy-eared, long-nosed marsupial called the bilby in its place, that's unfortunately on the endangered species list, in part due to the rapscallious rabbits.
So chocolate bilbies are traditional holiday delights in those parts, along with hot cross buns, (not bunnies) laced with currants and candied fruits, and decorated with crosses of vanilla frosting. These were originally created by Anglo ancestors who baked cakes to honor the spring goddess Eostre. When Christianity flourished, the church replaced these cakes with sweet buns, and blessed them with crosses emblazoned in the dough.
A special Easter bread in Poland is wrapped around an old wives tale, whereby mustached men are forbidden to help in its preparation. Should any dough adhere to the lip hair then this will prevent the bread from rising or cause the moustache to turn gray.
From Easter breads and bunnies to Easter lambs, in certain Russian cities the holiday spring table is decorated with a mound of butter carved in the form of a baby sheep. While in Greece, a popular Easter Sunday dish known as patsas or lamb tripe soup made from a lamb's stomach and feet, along with garlic, red wine vinegar and avgolemono, a traditional egg and lemon mixture is meant to herald the spring season (known also to ward off the occasional hangover). On Holy Saturday, before stuffing their faces with lamb's stomachs, denizens of the Greek island of Corfu ceremonially throw assorted cookware out their windows. (Obviously, someone saved a soup pot for the patsas).
Carnivorous holiday offerings in Colombia include green iguanas, slider turtles and behemoth capybara rodents in excess of 200 pounds. These creatures, indigenous and abundant during the spring season are traditional fare on the South American Easter table. Spiral sliced hamsters, anyone?
Now for my wacky Easter and April Fools' Day culinary concoction, a fluffy chocolate omelet that's sure to please the palate of even the most discriminating dictator. Bon appétit!
Recipe: Dark Chocolate Cherry Omelet
• Ingredients: 4 large eggs; 2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder; 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted; 2 tablespoons granulated sugar; 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted; 2 tablespoons coconut milk; 3 tablespoons cherry preserves; dash of salt; confectioner's sugar.
• Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In bowl of an electric mixer, whip egg whites with a dash of salt until soft peaks form. Add granulated sugar and whip to stiff peaks. Set aside. In a glass bowl, whisk yolks, cocoa powder, melted chocolate and coconut milk. Gently fold egg whites into yolk mixture.
In an oven-proof skillet, add coconut oil. Pour chocolate egg mixture onto pan, and bake 15 minutes or until set. Loosen edges with spatula, put plate over skillet, and invert chocolate omelet. Add a dollop of cherry preserves in center, and dust with Confectioner's sugar. (Serves 2)
— Catharine Kaufman can be reached by e-mail: email@example.com