Whatever happened to the Easter Bonnet? You know, the one with all the frills upon it. Does anyone care to be the grandest lady at the Easter Parade anymore?
I remember having a new suite at Easter. OK, so it was from Robert Hall. I was only 10 years old, what do you expect, a Hugo Boss? I remember my sister and mother would wear white gloves on Easter along with their Easter bonnets. Both my mother and sister had their best outfits on that day. My mother would take out her fur stole and wear it for Easter services. We would all go to church on Easter with a sense of renewal. New clothes, new hats, new shoes. My grandfather would wear his better made Italian suite and don his slick Fedora, his dress hat. His shoes were polished, even though he would wear something close to an army boot with metal taps on the heels. You could hear him coming a block away.
It was Easter, spring, a tradition of wearing new clothes with the spiritual promise of redemption and renewal. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that is pretty much what dressing up for Easter was all about. When we walked home from church we would stop at the Italian bakery to pick up some bread for Easter dinner along with an Italian braided Easter Bread for me, complete with colored Easter eggs cooked right into the bread. Does anyone color Easter eggs anymore? I hope so.
When we got home my friends had to wait. I couldn’t go out and play with them today. It was Easter, and my mother wanted to keep me in that suit for as long as she could. Back home my grandmother was putting the finishing touches on Easter dinner. She didn’t go to church anymore, it was to much for her to make that trip. Instead, she would sit in her arm chair by the front window every day and pray her rosary. Cooking in my grandmother’s oven was a roast leg of lamb. I could see my grandfather peeking into the oven and drooling over that leg of lamb. To keep his appetite at bay he would go into the hall pantry closet and pour himself a sip of sweet vermouth. He gave me a little taste as well. “It’s good for your blood”, he would say. I believed him, he was my grandfather and he knew what was good.
We were all having dinner in my parent’s dining room. My father would go upstairs to my grandparent’s apartment and carry down the roast lamb. My grandfather was right behind him with his bottle of red wine. Once my grandmother made it down the steps we were ready to eat. My mother was serving the plates of manicotti as my grandmother finished them with a ladle of sauce and sprinkle of grated cheese. The lamb was resting on top of the kitchen stove while we finished our first course. My grandfather would carve the lamb right at the table while my mother and grandmother brought in the rest of the feast. Stuffed artichokes, string beans with garlic and oil, roasted potatoes, a bowl of escarole and beans, stuffed eggplant. And at the end of dinner we always had the Easter wheat pies with coffee and fruit.
I lasted till dessert before I got out of my suit. I’m lucky I lasted that long. The chocolate Easter bunny was safe on the end table in my living room. I couldn’t eat that until we had finished dinner. And then, it was all mine.
Fried Stuffed Eggplant
- 2 pounds small eggplants, cut lengthwise 3/4 up their length and left attached at the stem
- 2 eggs, whole
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup, plus 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1/2 pound provolone cheese cut into small cubes
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cook the eggplants in the salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and let sit in colander till cool.
Cut the eggplant through the stem so you now have two halfs. With a spoon, scoop out the eggplant flesh, leaving the skin intact. Roughly chop the flesh. Place the flesh in a large bowl and add 2 whole eggs, Romano cheese, garlic, basil, parsley and provolone cheese. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Add the 1/4 cup bread crumbs and stir well. Add more bread crumbs if mixture is too loose.
Fill the eggplant shells (skins) with the mixture. Dredge each eggplant in the flour, then the beaten egg, then the remaining bread crumbs.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until almost smoking. Add the eggplants and fry on both sides until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Drain on paper towels and serve with lemon wedges.