My relationship with meat has always been tenuous at best, as recounted by my mother who never tires of reminding me she had to puree beef into mashed potatoes when I was five to trick me into eating it. The relationship definitely soured when I was served my pet bunny one Summer – in truth, the farmer by our country house from whom we purchased fresh eggs and chickens (dead ones) had given us a live rabbit that I got to enjoy for a few days, until he disappeared. Only to make a grand entrance on one of the serving platters, the ones decorated with wild roses I was so fond of.
It took me a while to connect the roasted rabbit surrounded by olives to the live bunny who had been running in the yard but, once I made the leap, no one dared deny the evidence. I have stayed away from rabbits, bunnies and most meat ever since.
Easter is a holiday I tend to forget. Wishes come from my friends and relatives in Italy, where Easter and Christmas are equal opportunity celebrations, no matter what faith (or lack of) you might happen to be. It’s pointless to say you don’t believe, or you are Jewish – just wish a Merry Christmas or Happy Easter back to avoid blank stares or being accused of being a Grinch.
The chocolate Easter bunnies that will be popping up everywhere on Sunday are not a traditional mainstay on my former shores. We have THE Easter egg. And I am not talking about Cadbury eggs type of confectionery or painted boiled eggs. Hell no – children (and adults) exchange hollow chocolate eggs that can vary in size from a few inches to the length of a 3-year-old child. What they all have in common is a surprise in the center: a small toy, a piece of jewellery and, for the most refined, the eggs can be made to order and filled with a gift of your choice. A diamond ring for example. They come wrapped in colorful paper and tulles, and the store-bought ones have little cards identifying whether the gift is for a boy or a girl. It doesn’t matter, in the end they are all tschockes that will be forgotten in a matter of hours (not the diamond ring). What is thrilling is getting to the end of Easter lunch, having avoided lamb with mint sauce, and unwrapping the massive egg, then opening the debate on how best to crack the egg with minimum spillage of good chocolate. Now you have a glimpse of when and where my chocolate addiction was born.
I still have a miniature china tea set that came from one such egg – it’s becoming, if not an antique, a vintage piece as I cannot remember the last time I cracked an Easter egg. I do miss the egg cracking ritual but I will have to make do with biting a bunny ear. A rigorously chocolate one.