Wednesday, October 8, 2008

When Brunch Is On

There’s one time every week when our family sings the Doxology together. It comes right after all the kids are woken up on Sunday morning, and right before we all dig into Sunday brunch. Since we take the day of rest that the Lord asks of us seriously, we also see it as a time to focus on his blessings. I don’t exactly know when or how we began our Sunday morning mealtime prayers with the Doxology, but for several family members, brunch is their favorite meal of the week. Perhaps it was the blessings from God flowing over the table that inspired us to choose it, or maybe just that we recognized Sunday was a day in particular for singing God’s praises.

Brunch at the Lynch home seems to follow a pattern. Nothing strict. It just happens. French toast, bacon, and fruit salad one week. The next will be pancakes, bacon, and fruit salad. Then will come an egg entrée with bacon and fruit salad. Do we see a pattern here? Occasionally I’ll serve something other than bacon, like sausage patties or ham, but if I go too long without bacon, someone wants to know why. My husband insists that I cook up a full pound of bacon each week. That was fine when we had all seven of us around the table. Now, most weeks, we are down to five. A pound of bacon still disappears just the same. Of course, this insistence is from a man who would love to eat at least six strips, if only it weren’t for that darn cholesterol.

Fruit salad is always a mainstay. During the warm months, the staple of the salad is melon, predominantly cantaloupe. This is also at the insistence of a man who wants to be buried in cantaloupe when he dies. I said OK about the burial, but only if melon is in season. The winter months get tough—slices of oranges, apples, and bananas don’t light that spark that the melons do. But throughout the winter I keep reminding them that after Lent comes Easter, and at the Easter brunch, if I don’t have at least eight different fresh fruits in the salad then I’m in deep sneakers. They have not just cantaloupe to look forward to in this Mother-of-All-Fruit-Salads, but the possibilities of watermelon, honeydew melon, fresh pineapple, mango, strawberries, grapes—green and red—bananas, kiwi, or mandarin oranges (the only canned fruit that I allow). And this is just the beginning of Easter brunch.

Our Easter brunch menu has been honed and refined over the years, till at this point it is so traditional I’ll never be able to change it. First comes Quiche Lorraine with lots of bacon in it. That is followed up with sausages, (Mother-of-all) fruit salad, homemade hashed brown potatoes, and—in honor of C.S. Lewis’s beavers in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—gloriously sticky sweet rolls, the kind with gooey caramel-covered pecans oozing over the top.

The tradition of this meal is so heavy that it actually produces a few thorny problems. Occasionally we are in the mood to ask guests to join us for Easter brunch. Naturally the invitees want to be able to bring something. If it’s a single person, especially a guy who doesn’t cook, it’s easy: bring some sparkling juice. But it’s much harder when your best friend who is a competent cook wants to provide something. Telling her to just come doesn’t work, so the question is which part of our glorious feast are we willing to take a risk on? Once I asked a friend to bring a fruit salad to brunch. It didn’t have cantaloupe in it. A few family members gave me some fierce stares, but I’m not about to hand out a dictated list of necessities for fruit salad and risk the goodwill of a best friend. It is Easter after all, not the culinary arts final exam. I have taken the initiative when guests are expected for this brunch to remind everyone in our family to be gracious about what the guests bring, and to promise to make it up to them by Pentecost!

Another problem that arises is getting it all done at the same time. I’ve learned to make the Quiche pie crust ahead of time and fill it with the bacon, shredded cheese and glazed onions. Then all I have to do in the morning is whip up the eggs and milk, pour it in the crust, and bake it. There is no help for the sausages and fruit salad. They have to be done that morning. But for the hashed browns, I cook the whole potatoes ahead of time, then chill them. Sometimes after they are chilled I even peel and grate them so they are ready to go in the morning. The gloriously sticky pecan rolls can also be prepared ahead of time, just up to the point where they need to be baked. Since the quiche needs to rest at least twenty minutes before serving, that gives me just enough time to bake the rolls. It’s down to a science.

One last problem is the fruit salad. Depending on how early or late Easter is in the spring, the quality of the fresh fruit can vary greatly. Of course, these days with fruit being shipped in from all over the world, your chances of getting a sweet, juicy strawberry in late March are greater than in the past. But I always experience some anxiety that I can even find a decent melon, let alone one with any flavor. I have to keep reminding myself that it has been months since we have had melon, so any melon will at least promise good eating to come. So the question comes down to how much in advance do I buy a melon to ensure that it will be ripe on Easter morning? Do I dare wait till Saturday to buy strawberries? They might be all gone. And are those green grapes really sweet, or will they set our teeth on edge?

Traditions are great, and food traditions are among the greatest, and sometimes the most pressured ones to get to happen. Whether it is Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, or a special birthday, it is celebrating the Lord’s goodness to us that come first, people come next, and that glorious food we all love still has a great place in our lives. So when the brunch is on, praise God from whom all blessings flow.

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