Food and Drink: Easter Brunch with Aunt Lois
As family and friends come together to celebrate Easter, the memories will quietly create themselves.
A table crowded with foods that mark the season is a lovely way to sow those memories, some of which may even become family lore. Memories are highly personal, of course, and no two people share the exact same recollection, but taking them out and showing them off years later is communal and satisfying.
New experiences carry with them the intensity of the present, but a well-burnished memory is one that has grown in our hearts as both we and it age. And so it is with my memories of a feisty, 80-something-year-old Ohio snowbird named Lois Swager.
She was Aunt Lois to my then-husband and our two daughters. When I say feisty, I do mean blissfully nonchalant about how her words were perceived. Not that she was rude; no, Lois was just no nonsense.
She lived in Apopka, and we would travel from Brevard County to visit. Dinner at her home was an adventure in building immunity, and as a new mom, I was often either speechless or stifling chuckles. I remember one lasagna dinner that featured a surprise layer of potato chips. Everything else was standard lasagna, I prefer to assume, but there was that inexplicable layer of Lay’s Potato Chips.
Her refrigerator was like a time capsule of foods long past their usable date. And always in front were the hard-boiled eggs floating in a pickle jar from the 1980s with purple pickled beet juice, also repurposed from the 1980s.
She was a survivor of the Great Wars and the Great Depression and she would simply throw away nothing. The water she used to mop the floor would then be used to water her plants or flush her toilet. She was worth millions, but she lived modestly. One thing she loved to do was treat her nephew and his family during the holidays.
For Easter, we would go to a restaurant called Highland Manor. It looked like a farmhouse and sat atop a small hill, surrounded by a great, green lawn, oak trees and fences. Here we were in Apopka, feeling like we had taken a trip deep into the Virginia countryside.
Looking back, these Easter outings couldn’t have been better scripted. The spread was vast, with carving stations of roast lamb, prime rib and baked ham. Salads, breads, the ubiquitous peel-and-eat shrimp. It was all there. Lemonade for the kids and champagne for the adults.
An Easter egg hunt on the grounds gave the children a chance to frolic like spring foals. Adults towering over the well-dressed herd could see the colored eggs that were apparently invisible to those who stood only two-feet tall. There was some crying, some egg hoarding and a lot of beaming faces. Memories made.