Growing up in the South during the Dark Ages, many things stand out about childhood Easters, especially the live baby chicks, rabbits and ducklings that had been dyed in Crayola colors.
I seem to recall they were sold in now extinct local hardware and five-and-dime stores. I recall owning two appealing live baby Easter animals. Unlike other less fortunate Easter adoptees, my baby duck and rabbit actually lived to adulthood.
The fact that so few of these animals survived likely explains why the practice of selling colored chicks and the like is outlawed in most states.
I can’t recall how long each animal lived. Both lived well into adulthood, outgrowing their colorful plumage and pastel-colored fur.
The duck was allowed to roam free, thus making it equivalent to today’s free-range birds.
The rabbit grew into a giant white bunny with pink eyes. He or she lived in a rabbit hutch and was fed garden scraps and rabbit pellets purchased at the hardware store.
Aside from colored animals, Easter meals were a special time for gathering around the table with a large extended family.
The menu for this meal rarely varied, and was speciously similar to that of Thanksgiving and Christmas. There was usually a pot roast cooked to smithereens. (I never really knew how meat tasted until I left home.)
Overcooked ham was also usually on the menu. The cooks in my family chose to ignore the "precooked" and "heat gently" instructions on ham packaging. To compensate for overcooking a precooked ham, said ham was cooked in a marinade of Coca-Cola, mustard and brown sugar. This kept it "moist," or so the cooks said.
There was no such thing as carving, because meat was judged for falling off the bone more than its flavor.
These meals were accompanied by an array of vegetables, casseroles, gelatin salads and — always — stuffed eggs. Dessert was fresh coconut layer cake. Beverage choices were sweet tea or sweet tea.
Though the mainstays of my Southern Easter meal adhere to tradition, my cooking techniques have evolved from those of my ancestors. I have a meat thermometer and am capable of producing a medium-rare roast, as well as trusting the ham producer whose package says "warm slightly."
There will be deviled eggs and coconut cake, made using tried-and-true recipes, and there will be wine.
Several wines, in fact, because the Easter meal, like other festive Southern meals, includes many varied items that call for a varied selection of wines.
Consider the following or other similar wines to serve with your Easter fare:
Ruffino Sparkling Rosé. In the $15 range at Target. A festive Italian sparkling wine to serve as a prelude to a festive meal. Made from glera, a white grape used primarily in Prosecco, but this is not Prosecco because it is blended with pinot noir. This wine has subtle flavors of strawberries and subtle aromas of spring flowers. Spritely and refreshing.
Hyland Estates Rosé Pinot Noir 2015. $21.75 at Tyson’s Fine Wine and Things in Anniston. Alabama is the only state outside of Oregon where this limited-quantity wine is available. An excellent rosé full of fruit flavors, which I often find missing in other rosé wines. Remarkably balanced. Not overly sweet or too dry, but just right to pair with an array of Southern fare or to serve as an aperitif.
Guenoc Sauvignon Blanc 2015. $9.75 at Tyson’s. Crisp white wine laced with pineapple and citrus flavors with a clean finish. Great with deviled eggs and poultry.
Rombauer Zinfandel 2014. $32.25 at Tyson’s. For those who insist on drinking nothing but red wine, zinfandel is often overlooked. Yes, most zinfandels are big red wines, but they are also jammy. This wine, arguably one of the best zinfandels on the market, has a slight sweetness on the approach that leads to concentrated jammy brambleberry. Baking spices come through on the palate, leading to a smooth and lasting finish. A good red for sipping pre-Easter repast, but excellent with the varied Easter menu.
Contact Pat Kettles at email@example.com.