Sunday, April 16, 2006

Iconic Easter Sunday

This morning, I got up early and, watching the radar, found a window of opportunity between the rains to go out on my annual Easter Sunday Bike ride. I do this every year no matter what the weather. It wasn't the bike's shakedown cruise for this year; I took advantage of last week's gorgeous weather to do that. But it’s the first looooong ride I always take, and its destination is the lakefront. Its sort of like going to church for me. I ride past the city, then into the parks, and see the beginning of spring poke out: the geese and ducks returning (no babies yet! Some years I see geese followed by little dirty yellow puffs of goslings, but not this year), daffodils opening up, smaller trees budding with bits of green against the brown bare branches of the older trees. Sometimes its sunny, this year it was dreary and cold. But that's nature: it doesn’t always coincide with a calandar. Nevertheless, I bundled up, got on my bike, loaded up on water, and rode for almost 2 hours. I can feel the cold air filling and leaving my lungs, I can feel my legs pumping, I'm thankful that I can see and hear and feel. As I get close to the lakefront, with the sun trying to peek out of the clouds, I stop and just stare at the water all the way to the edge of the horizon while being absolutely conscious of my heart beating, my lungs filling and exhaling the brisk air, the sweat dripping on my face, just drinking in all the physical and conceptual rebirth. Its that moment every year that I see and feel God. That's my Easter Sunday.

Yesterday, I made my contribution to today's Easter ham dinner at the husband's aunt and uncle's house: a couple of loaves of Tsoureki, a greek Easter bread. I'd seen the recipe inSaveur many years back and I make it every so Easter. It's a very sweet bread, braided like challah, but with a red dyed egg in the end, that symbolizes the blood of Christ or something like that. Gotta love the Greeks -- everything's an icon! The recipe called for the steeped essence of makhlepi (the seeds of mediterrian wild cherries), and this was the first year I sought out that ingredient. Of course, the Spice House downtown had it, and as the recipe mentioned "it just smells real nice" I was finally going to use it. It DID smell real nice, but frankly, I couldn't taste it in the finished product, and I didn't even smell it. It was sort of like omitting the bay leaf in recipies that call for a bay leaf: does it really change the flavor all that much? Still, there was something iconic in and of itself of going to search for a special ingredient for a special bread, and I'm glad I did it. But does anybody out there have any other uses for maklepi? I doubt if it's going to maintain its potency until next year. Anyway, after that brutal but satisfying bike ride, I'm looking forward to the ham dinner: Hey, let's celebrate the resurrection of the King of the Jews by eating pork!

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