Easter Grinch

In retrospect, I really did everything I could to steal the fun from Easter this year.

Part of the annual tradition is a month or so of hungry anxiety spent mulling over how we might tweak the brunch formula.  Part of the fun is the dreaming and scheming.

Inevitably, though, we arrive at the same menu: grilled lamb and asparagus.  A grain salad and a green one.  Smoked salmon.  Something eggy (quiche, strata, frittata…).  A few stems of flowers, cold beverages, pot of coffee, clean tablecloth, shined silver, a tall stack of Heath plates, twenty relatives–done.

Enter the Grinch: I must have been under some sort of duress, because when it came time to start brainstorming I would have none of it.  Why reinvent the wheel?

“Let me spare you the trouble,” I said to my own parents, who host the brunch in collaboration with their awful son.   (They cook at their place and I set the table at mine).  “You will bring the lamb, the asparagus, the egg-something and the salmon.  I will make the grain salad and the other vegetable.  Sister can do dessert.”

“We should have a couple kinds of juices,” my mother said.  “Diet Pepsi for Frank.  Diet Coke for Ann.  And white wine, and red.  Did we have iced tea last year?”

“Beer,” my dad said.  “And  non-alcoholic beer.”

“No!” said the Grinch with no uncertain hostility.  I could just picture my mother at my front door with one of those enormous handtrucks the soda machine man pushes.  “Our guests will drink whatever we serve them.  Three beverages max.  Red, white, water.”

“A cheese plate…”

“No cheese plate.”

“How should I do the lamb?” asked my father.  His eyes had a glimmer of inspiration and curiosity. “I was thinking about a slow braise, then shredded, on tacos, with a chimichurri and some salsas.”

“We could get those little tortillas,” said Mom. “At Costco.  Or we could bring them back from San Francisco.”

I was already half-cocked to derail the taco idea but had to redirect to address the tortilla issue first.

“You are coming back from San Francisco a month before Easter.”

“We could freeze them…”

“No,” said the Grinch, before turning to his father.  “Tacos create additional effort and uncertainty and will be no less well received than a simple.  grilled.  lamb.”

“Lamb banh mi?”

It was my fault– I had planted the banh mi seed in their heads, but I stuck to my guns.  “These add no value to the brunch process.”

Then the Grinch excused himself, thanked his parents for feeding him dinner  and tolerating him since birth, and left the table.

Easter Sunday rolled around and my parents showed up with boxes full of beautiful foods.  Strawberries and smoked salmon peeked out of one; a tray of thinly-sliced lamb topped another.  I had scrubbed and mopped and dusted the  entire place (thank you, robot vacuum) and by great fortune Mrs. Goo next door had chopped down an enormous fan palm, whose berries and leaves made lovely and Bible-apropos Easter florals.  Mom somehow balanced some top-heavy orchids on the buffet–et voila!

They had followed, almost to the letter, my perverse demand that all food come completely prepared with no activities or articles to clutter the kitchen.  The main entrance to my house is through the kitchen and one of my “idiosyncracies” (note to future therapist) is that when I entertain, guests should walk in to a welcoming room free of dirty cutting boards and plastic shopping bags.  This is an energetically unbalanced equation because the first thing any guest does, upon walking in with arms full of loot to miles of empty countertops, is to set things down exactly where it will bother me most.  I am a terrible and tyrannical host and it takes all my willpower not to clench my teeth as I leap over guests to unhand the new arrival with a welcoming “Let me take those, thank you so much.”

But back to brunch: several guests rang the doorbell a half-hour early and the Sister came with a carrot cake that needed to be frosted, a cheese plate (see above) to assemble with grapes that needed to be washed…and about seven thousand pieces of foil and plastic to unwrap from her assorted ingredients.

But after nearly swallowing my lip at the saran wrap situation, I turned around to face the dining room and there it was: everyone relaxing and nibbling and sipping happily.  A mountain breeze floated down through the house.  Slack-key guitar.

Maybe Mom and Dad had something to do with it.  Maybe it was luck, or magic.  Or maybe, in spite of everything Grinchlike I tried to do, in spite of my reaffirming the “spittable” in “hospitable,” the formula of food and family is simply too robust for one Grinch to steal.

(Which just goes to prove my point about the beverages….)

Partial Menu:

  • Grilled lamb with chimichurri
  • Smoked salmon
  • Toasted buckwheat salad with pistou and artichoke hearts
  • Pearled barley with caramelized shallots, black olives and marmalade vinaigrette
  • White miso and red curry roast kabocha with tofu
  • Green apple chiogga beet slaw with sheep’s cheese and mint
  • Sushi
  • Carrot cake
  • Lilikoi cheesecake
  • Sausage strata

And after all that booze and brunch: iced coffee, and an afternoon swim. 🙂

Related: Easter Aftermath 2010.

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