Tradition in Progress

The two who make it all worthwhile

Having a kid has made me think a lot more conscientiously about establishing traditions for Gideon to grow up with. Family traditions center us and provide a rhythm, structure and familiarity to life that I think is important.

Tradition is more than repetition, it’s anticipation.

Gideon is far too young to engage in the holidays other than being put into cute outfits. Maybe next year we’ll start considering egg coloring, egg hiding and what significance, if any, rabbits will play. A lot of these events will probably be played out at my parent’s house, which is fantastic. Tradition should be multi-generational. But I also want to be sure that a holiday’s traditions aren’t all entirely focused outside our home. Egg activities and Easter dinner with the grandparents is wonderful but we also need to focus on our own little individual family unit as well.

I’ll have a couple years to research and come up with some unique activities (I’m thinking Easter Bonfire for one) so right now I’m focusing on food.

Food is the beating heart of tradition. Nearly all holidays and celebrations revolve around it. Thanksgiving dinner, Birthday cakes, Christmas cookies, Fourth of July BBQs and Halloween candy. Tradition is about community and we eat with our people, so it makes sense that food is nearly always at the center of our observances.

Being the primary cook in my household means I can grab the reigns of the menu and steer the ship in the direction I want. This will generally always mean one thing:

No ham.

Now ham is FINE, I will never turn up my nose at ham when it is prepared and presented for me. I will eat it gratefully and without complaint. I would never cook ham of my own accord though. That’s because, as I said, ham is simply fine. It is a staggeringly average meat that a lot of people love to a degree I don’t understand. I wish I understood, life would be a lot better if I were gaga for ham because it’s a centerpiece for nearly every major holiday.

The weird thing about ham is that it’s not even a matter of disliking pork products in general. Bacon, sausage, pork chops, pork ribs, pulled pork, and pork loin are all foods I love that reach levels of flavor far beyond baked ham. Ham is fine, it’s just a bit boring, and what I don’t want for a holiday is boring.

So this was my initial run for my Easter Eve dinner.

Roasted Rosemary Red Potatoes – Diced up an armful of red potatoes, tossed them into a bowl. Drizzled them with olive oil and tossed to coat. Seasoned with Johnny’s and crushed rosemary. The texture could have been much more consistent. That will need to be improved.

Macaroni Egg Salad – Dice a dozen hard boiled eggs, several celery stalks, a batch of green onions and half a red onion. Mix with cooked and chilled macaroni and add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and some smoked paprika. Season. This turned out great but the original recipe called for 2 lbs of macaroni which was far, far, far too much. I need to get my grandmother’s recipe and try that.

Lamb Shoulder Chop – Prepare a mint and basil sauce (that’s a post all for itself) and let the lamb marinate in it for at least a couple hours. Toss some butter onto a cast iron skillet and plop the chop down. Before flipping over be sure to baste with the remainder sauce. I’m not married to the shoulder chop, a lot of eating around the bone. I’ll probably experiment with another cut next year if I can fine one.

The lamb is obviously the hero of the meal, our ham substitute. I don’t know why we don’t eat more of it in this country, it’s easily up there with my favorite proteins but it’s too expensive to eat as regularly as we might eat chicken, pork, or even beef. That’s a shame, I’ve heard that in Britain that mutton (different from lamb, I know, but still) is one of the most affordable proteins available. For now, I’ll reserve lamb for special occasions and Easter is obviously the appropriate holiday to indulge in it.

I’m also thinking this meal is missing something important, mainly a soup. If I can source it at a good price I think I may try to add coney stew next year, along with prepping the dishes that will keep well (the egg salad, obviously) the day before to cut down on muss and fuss on Saturday. I may also use my Traeger for the lamb next year, rather than the cast iron. Sadly my trusty smoker pal is out of commission for the time being as I give it a thorough cleaning. Assuming I can put it back together, it should play a very prominent role in all these new food traditions.