Mark Ballard

Easter memory comes to life

When I was a child, there were many Saturday nights consumed with food preparation for our Sunday after-church lunch. Much of the time this revolved around the cooking of a pot roast. There was a special covered dish we used to encase the meat that was surrounded by small red potatoes, chopped onions and baby carrots. We sprinkled this assortment with dry soup mix and then also smothered it with creamy canned soup. Just before retiring for bed, we would place it in the oven on a very low temperature. Magically, as we slept, it was transformed into a dinner fit for a king.

We woke up the next morning to a house filled with the aroma of simmering meat and vegetables. It was intoxicating.

Our mouths watered as we dressed for church. We were almost sad to leave our meal behind as we drove off but we convinced ourselves we would soon be home to partake of the glorious flavors that the overnight cooking yielded.

On those particular Sundays, our pastor knew better than to go a single minute past noon with his sermon. It was as if the aroma of our Sunday dinner had reached his nose all the way at the church. I could hardly concentrate on his words during the service because my mind was thinking of our special lunch. Memories of everyone sitting around the table for Sunday lunch always make me smile.

This past Sunday left our family with somewhat of an Easter lunch dilemma. Our first plans had included my wife and me driving up to Atlanta for the day and taking our children out to eat. In this fast-paced life we all lead, preparing a full sit-down meal is almost a thing of the past.

Because we eat out so much, I just couldn’t get excited about our plans. Plus, trying to choose a restaurant we all could agree on was a definite challenge.

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted them to come for a home-cooked meal. I called Courtney and Blake and, besides having to drive down here, they were excited. They made several requests including pot roast with extra carrots, deviled eggs, homemade biscuits and one of my coconut cakes. After all, it wouldn’t be Easter without a coconut cake complete with green coconut grass and speckled jelly bean eggs on top.

After I heard their demands in exchange for them driving down, it occurred to me that I would have to do most of the cooking. That is, except for the deviled eggs, which have never been my favorite.

Even though it was going to be more work for me, I still loved the idea of reviving a special family memory on a special Sunday.

It took days to lock in the menu and then at least three visits to the grocery store. That was before we even started to prepare the meal. Not to mention the fact that I wanted to create an Easter table complete with fresh flowers, polka-dotted pastel china, bunny napkin rings and yellow chicks. I mean it WAS Easter after all.

Saturday was filled with baking the cake and decorating the table with my special china and Easter chicks and animals.

Saturday night involved the preparation for the all-night cooking vigil of the pot roast. Needless to say, I was still exhausted when I awoke Sunday morning.

My son begged me to bake some “from scratch” biscuits for breakfast. I tried to convince him that in only a few hours we would have some for lunch. “But I never get any and I will eat them at both meals,” he said, using his pleading smile as a negotiation tool.

I did what any dad would do when asked to make one of his son’s favorite things. That’s right, I baked them! It was worth the extra effort to see his face as he wolfed them down while they were hot with butter dripping from the edges. As soon as breakfast was over, my wife and I divvied up the remaining side dishes for our lunch. Working against the clock, we successfully completed our tasks before the clock struck the agreed-upon time for our special lunch.

The meal was just as I had remembered the ones at home with my family all those years ago. We caught up on everything that was going on in all of our lives sandwiched in between some current world events and a little gossip. It was over before I wanted it to be but the coconut cake seemed to make its quick ending a little easier to swallow.

However, what had slipped my mind was the clean-up process. Somewhere in my memory bank, washing the dishes had been magically erased. In the process of our Easter-themed luncheon, we had dirtied almost every pot, pan, utensil and dish in our kitchen.

After the meal, we were greeted by mounds of dirty dishes and “cooked-over” spills. It was overwhelming to me as I entered the kitchen, but we all jumped in and tackled the job. Before long, there was only a smell left as proof of a meal that took days to organize and execute.

As our children said their goodbyes and headed back to Atlanta with boxes loaded with Tupperware filled leftovers, once again a smile came to my face. We had pulled off a special Sunday lunch just as my parents had done so many times in years gone be. We took a deep breath and looked around. The sun was shining and birds were chirping. We were content. Spring was definitely in the air.

more from mark

Ÿ The Children’s Hospital Celebrity Classic Weekend: April 18-20. Join Mark and other national, state and local celebrities at a casino night complete with buffet and auction, different golf tournaments to benefit the Children’s Hospital. Call (478) 633-7666 for details and tickets.

Ÿ Cooking with Mark: Join Mark the weekend of April 25-26 at two different events for recipes, tips and tastings. Vidalia Onion Cooking Show — April 25. Macon Junior League’s Le Tour of Kitchens — April 26. Read next week’s column for more details.

Ÿ Check out Mark’s Web site. Visit www.markballard.com for current projects, recipes and lots of other fun stuff for spring.

Mark’s on www.macon.com 24 hours a day: Videos, columns and articles are featured.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208 or fax them to (478) 474-4930 or call (478) 757-687.

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