Sunday, I hosted an Easter gathering with about a dozen members of my extended family. It was a lot of work, and I’m too tired to write the post I was thinking about—the one about the chilled pea soup with tarragon that opened the meal—so that will have to wait until later in the week. Don’t worry, I’ll get to it, and you’ll be glad I did. The soup is a cool and creamy taste of spring. It’s a pea soup for folks who don’t like pea soups.
Organizing a meal for a dozen people is a bit like starting a small company, putting on a minor musical, and invading a tiny republic—all at the same time. It costs money, there’s always a bit of drama, someone will get wounded, but hopefully no one dies. In this case, the meal (which was this olive-stuffed lamb) was a joint effort, with my friend Zoe bringing the dessert (a luscious scented apple cobbler that perfumed the house as we ate), and Santa Maria prepping many of the vegetables.
One of them was asparagus. We had other things to do during the day, including attending a church service, so Santa Maria got it ready in the morning. She came up with neat way to keep the vegetable from wilting during the day. She snapped off their stems and stuck them like daffodils in baking dish full of water. I just loved the way they looked, and I snapped a photo of them in the middle of cooking the meal.
Her system worked like a charm, and when the time for cooking them rolled around, they were ready to go. Pulling off a dinner party of this size without losing your mind takes a lot of planning. And improvising. Santa Maria pulled of both at the same time with the asparagus. At some point, I’ll write about how to best plan for a dinner party, but now. I’m too tired. There’s no amount of planning that can reduce the amount of work, short of planning to go to someone else’s house.
But that’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to gather my family together in my house for a few hours, and contemplate the arrival of spring. My siblings and their spouses represent most of the major religious traditions of the Western World, including agnosticism, and because I knew we would be such a diverse group, and because I wanted to find some meaning in the day, I asked everyone to bring a quote about rebirth and renewal to share at the table.
At the end of the meal, I put the kids and nephews on a Wallace & Gromit video, and we started to read and recite our quotes. One person quoted from Robin Williams, another from George Lucas. A brother-in-law read from Shakespeare, and Santa Maria read from Thomas Mann. My sister recited an E.E. Cummings poem, and I decided to call our gathering an easter meal with a small “e.”