Maven Moment: Easter Food Traditions

Italian Easter bread

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One of my strongest childhood memories is the celebration of the Easter season. For my family, it lasted from Ash Wednesday through Lent and ended on Easter Sunday.

My favorite part of the holiday was Grandma’s cooking and baking. She made mouthwatering homemade pasta and dried it on the beds on top of linen tablecloths before it was cooked. (And woe to anyone going near the beds when her pasta was drying to grab some to nibble on!)

But first, we had Lent, a period of fasting and inward-looking that lasted 40 days. As a child, it seemed to last forever, particularly since I would give up a food I liked for Lent, like sweets! We also had meat-free meals on Wednesdays and Fridays during the Lenten “fast.”

When it was time to break the fast, our meal featured Grandma’s Pizza Rustica. It’s a delicious stuffed pizza made of cold cuts and cheese baked in a crust. A traditional Italian dish for breaking the Lenten fast, I suspect it comes from the days when people had only a bit of preserved meat left in the larder after the long winter, so this was a perfect way to use it up.

In addition to her homemade pasta, Grandma always made Italian Easter bread. She scented this simple sweet bread with citrus zest and a splash of orange juice, twisted it into a circle, and topped it with colorful sprinkles. Served warm with butter, it was a little taste of heaven.

These Easter food traditions, from giving up foods for Lent to eating traditional Italian dishes, helped me learn to pay attention to the food I eat. Just by paying attention to what we eat, we can become more aware of food waste, which is the first step towards reducing food waste. And reducing our consumption of certain foods, such as our meat-free Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent, is better for the planet, a practice to continue throughout the year.

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Joanna Lacey
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