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 | By Michelle DiFranco

The Feast Goes on

A typical Easter Sunday during my childhood included attending Mass with my family, then driving straight to the nearby hotel restaurant for a huge brunch. This wasn’t the unappetizing brand of brunch — dessicated scrambled eggs beneath a heat lamp and a picked-over salad bar behind a sneeze guard. For us, it was a special treat we all looked forward to, where my parents had to make a reservation several months in advance and open up the pocketbook. Large decorated tables with beautifully arranged food selections would greet us upon entering the hotel’s entertaining area. Most impressive was the artfully arranged spread of colorful, fresh vegetables and meats at the salad table. It was truly a feast for the eyes, as well as the palate.

As well it should be! We’re talking about the greatest celebration in the Catholic Church, the feast of the resurrection of our Lord! And after 40 days of fasting, how appropriate to have such a plenitful spread of delicious cuisine.

I fast-forward now to Easter celebrations today with my own family. Things are a little different. We don’t go to a brunch after Mass. We simply do our own cooking right at home. Different times, different traditions, I guess.

One year not long ago, we opened up our fridge to re-create, on a smaller scale, a feast reminicent of the ones I enjoyed at the fancy hotel each year in my youth. I grabbed all the greens I had, fresh veggies, left-over cooked bacon and a handful of dyed Easter eggs.

I started chopping, with the ambition of assembling a complex, colorful and abundant salad for my family. I wanted it to be as bountiful and pleasing as the spread we would encounter in the Easters of my childhood. It was resourceful, delicious and plentiful.

During dinner, I stared at the colorful selection of fresh vegetables and meats and I could not help but find symbolism in it. The more I pondered, the more I saw. The bountiful cornucopia of ingredients reminded me of the joy of our Lord’s resurrection. The meat selections contrasted with the now-completed meatless Fridays of Lent that had prepared us for Easter. Even the Christian tradition of eating hard-boiled eggs after a long Lenten fast, which gives rise to the tradition of the Easter egg, found its way to my plate in the form of my children’s dye-stained Easter eggs.

I do miss those wonderful brunches with my family in my youth. But I also love how the Easter holiday, and Christ himself, comes to us in all stages of our life, in new patterns and different ways. I wonder how my kids will celebrate Easter when they are older. And I hope they recall Easters with the festive salad I now make for them each year, as I remember those brunches with my family.

Plentiful Chopped Salad (2 plentiful servings)

  • Two chicken breasts (grilled and chopped)
  • 6 strips of bacon (cooked and chopped)
  • ½ cup blue cheese crumbles (or any crumbled cheese)
  • 10-12 grape tomatoes (halved)
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs (sliced)
  • 1 large avocado (sliced or chopped)
  • ½ cup chopped scallions
  • Romaine and Bibb lettuce, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic (crushed)
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon wedge, squeezed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare dressing and set aside: Combine crushed garlic, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss chopped Romaine and Bibb with half of the dressing. Arrange tossed greens on the bottom of a large plate. Arrange rows of toppings. Pour any remaining dressing over salad.