Easter 2008 and the Case of the Murderous Macaroni

I am not Italian. I am Scotch/German, and my husband is German/Irish. We neither of us come from backgrounds that are exactly known for their culinary excellence. (blood pudding, anyone?) Yet, somehow, food has become in my family a huge part of family gatherings.

My mother is famous for cooking at least three times more food than is necessary and still worrying that she doesn't have enough. "Do you think that the 18 lb turkey and whole leg of ham will be enough?" she will ask on Thanksgiving, hands wringing.

"Isn't she funny?" I will say to my husband.

"Yes," he will reply. "And you're just like her."

As much as I hate to admit it - he's right. Any time I know I'm going to host an event I obsess about what food I'm going to have and how much of it, and if there is variety enough for everyone. The difference is, I believe, that I don't worry about it like my mother does - but Tim keeps insisting that I'm EXACTLY like her on such occasions. Whatever. He can think what he wants.

This Easter was no different. When I found that I was going to host Easter dinner for Tim's family on Saturday, I worked out my usual elaborate menu of an enormous ham, plenty of salad and asparagus, pineapple casserole, fresh homemade rolls, fruit salad, sherbet, and about 40 egg shaped decorated sugar cookies. I also bought plenty of little treasures for all the kids to have in their baskets. By Friday night, all was ready to go the following day.

Then we got the call: Tim's sister and family of 5 (who consume the bulk of food on such occasions) are sick and won't be coming. It would only be us and Tim's parents, who eat barely anything. Here is the point in which I have to confess my totally inappropriate reaction to this news. I didn't say, "Oh, no, that's horrible. I hope they feel better soon." I didn't even say, "That stinks, I was really looking forward to seeing all of them."

No, I said, "Well, what the heck am I going to do with all this food?!" And for the rest of the night that was the primary thing on my mind. Now, I did eventually express (and actually feel) concern over their health, and regret over not seeing them - sometime later in the day on Saturday. So I'm not a complete boob. Only a partial one.

There were an enormous amount of leftovers after our meal on Saturday. Technically, Tim's dad isn't even supposed to be eating ham or cookies at all, so there were plenty of both, to put it mildly. I also had the entire lot of asparagus uncooked, because I had only bought it for TIm's family since we don't like it, and it seemed rather overkill to cook 50 spears of asparagus for two people. I decided to disguise my eagerness to get rid of all this food with a show of generosity, and packed up most of the leftovers (including all the asparagus) to drop off at Tim's sister's on the way to my mother's house the next day. So, they got an Easter meal of sorts, and I got to clean out my refrigerator. And it actually was nice to be able to help them out. They'd been sick for a week, and I'm sure it had begun to take its toll. Food conundrum solved with feel-good philanthropy on the side. Woo hoo!

This would appear to be the end of food related Easter stories - but it's not. We still had my mother's house to go to.

So. Sunday.

At least a week prior, I had talked over the food for Sunday with my mother, and had committed to making scalloped potatoes and roasted vegetables to ease some of her food anxiety. Because there can be no event at my mother's house without food anxiety. Sunday morning everything was packed in the car for one night at her house, plus food for dinner there, and the stuff we were taking to Tim's sister - AND we were all gussied up for church, all by 8:10. I expect everyone reading this to be overcome by impressed awe at this accomplishment.

We made it to my mother's by a little before noon, and I quick got everything in the oven to bake before everyone else got there. I helped my mother with the stewed apples and macaroni and cheese, of which there were two enormous pots. Remember, there was also a ham, my food, and broccoli and pea salad. But, I didn't see anything amiss - it was standard fare, as far as I was concerned, to have as many options for guest to consume as possible. And, it turns out, it was a good thing.

I was carving the ham, minding my own business, when suddenly - BANG. A shot rang out next to me. I ducked for cover.

My mother has been known my entire life for "stovetop absentmindedness." When I was a child, we used to make bets on how many burners we thought she'd left on that night, because there were always at least one. This, it turned out, was the culprit behind the assassination attempt. Mom had turned on the stove on high to bring the water for the broccoli to a boil - only she turned on the wrong burner. She had placed the glass casserole dish containing the mountain of macaroni and cheese on the front burner, and turned that one instead, and it literally exploded about three minutes later. Macaroni went flying, glass spilled on the floor, and the room filled with smoke as the food burned on the stovetop. It being an electric stove, and not being a flat top one, it was pretty much impossible to get it off before it cooled, so it sat there, sizzling and smoking away.

I told Mom that it was providential, since earlier she's had ANOTHER incident of stovetop absentmindedness in which she'd burned the tomatoes for the said macaroni and cheese. She didn't think that was funny. She did say, "And that was supposed to be TEMPERED glass!" I did think that was funny.

But, as everyone commiserated over the loss of food, out came the pan of scalloped potatoes, saving the day. "I wouldn't have had both potatoes AND macaroni," my sister in law said. Maybe so - but it was a good thing she did!

So, the moral to the story is: Always overplan. You never know when your macaroni is going to try to assassinate you.

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(Every year we make a point to get our picture taken on Easter. This is because it's the one day a year that we can pretty much be guaranteed to all be looking good. At least in the morning. By lunchtime the kids are starting to unravel a bit, so we make a point to get it taken before 10 or so. So, we brought the camera along to church and had someone take our picture before we started to deteriorate.)