If you’ve ever lived on the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll have observed that the appearance of colourful eggs, plastic chooks and chocolate bunnies coincides with that unmistakable feel of Spring in the air. Suddenly, the days are longer, warmer and your body has more energy. It feels like a true resurrection from winter sleep.
As a child growing up in Izmir, Turkey close to the Greek Isles, Spring was an especially beautiful and exciting time of year. The warmer weather and the blossoming of wildflowers and orchards was an invitation to pick flowers and fruit. The Spring festival we called Hidirellez would bring out all the children in the neighbourhood to build bonfires and jump over them well into the midnight hour.
In many cultures, fire symbolizes not only destruction but also purification and cleansing. In Turkey, Spring cleaning is a very serious matter. In our household, all the carpets would be lifted, dusted, washed, and the house would be cleared of any objects that were no longer wanted, given away to hurdaji, the men who trolled the streets all day with their trolleys collecting household waste.
When I moved to the U.S. with my family at the age of 11, Hidirellez was one of the things I missed the most. Luckily, there were new traditions, like Easter long weekend and chocolate and marshmallow eggs, and a gigantic Easter bunny that brought goodies for children to feast on. Living in the suburbs of D.C., the White House Easter Egg roll was something I aspired to but I didn’t push my family to observe as I considered myself too old to paint eggs and roll them around.
Imagine my delight when last March, shortly after moving into the Lane Cove area, mum and I decided to go to the Persian Basement for lunch and saw a Nowruz alter decked out with colourful eggs, roses, candles and sweets. It felt like home and very clearly, Lane Cove is home for me going forward as where I live now is as diverse as the neighbourhood in Izmir where I spent my formative years. That day, the alter as well as the enjoyable Persian food served with fluffy aromatic pilaf rice, had a surprising effect on me. It inspired me to cook something I hadn’t made in a very long time.
My household is like many households in Australia, a melting pot of cultures. My partner can trace his lineage to those transported to the colony and I am a Turkish-American who considers herself a part of any tribe that shares my values of creativity, community and personal growth.
Before the youngest members of our family made their appearance, Easter meant enjoying a Lindt Bunny or two and spending a few days out of town. Now I’m sensing a push within me to bring meaning to a holiday that’s traditionally a celebration of Mother Nature’s wake from her slumber. Alas, in Australia the bunnies and the eggs don’t translate so well to what is happening in our natural world. Let’s not make any mistakes though, I still love chocolate eggs and bunnies as do our girls. They love colours and art projects too so the tradition of colouring eggs is welcomed.
Bruce Lee said “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
Hence, in addition to the colourful eggs and chocolate, our Easters bring the scent of barley, rice, beans, chicks peas, dried figs, apricots, currants, perfumed with rose water cooking on the oven, filling our home with its warmth. Noah’s Pudding is a dish of patience (here’s a recipe to try out) that brings together many ingredients, the way the Biblical Noah would have brought together all those animals in his vessel.
The dish is rich in nutrients and boosts the immune system. Our bodies and homes could use Noah’s Pudding as we adjust to cooler and shorter days on the horizon.
Even sourcing the ingredients is a joy. I got them from The Source in Lane Cove, seeing and smelling the barley grains as they filled my bag instilled hope that my girls would enjoy a close relationship with Mother Nature and her gifts.
In Turkey, we cook Noah’s Pudding during a special time called Ashureh, which falls in Autumn and the purpose is to share the joy of the pudding with our neighbours.
If you find a recipe you like and cook the pudding, be sure to share it and not just on social media.
On a personal note, this Easter Sunday falls on the 12th of April, my mum’s birthday. This will forever be a special day that inspires generosity in me, as it was last year that we celebrated three unforgettable women, one being mum at Hotel My Dora, hosted by Aunty Berna and Uncle Levent.
In Turkish, we have a saying that a coffee shared shall be remembered for forty days, then the food, especially the calamari and the drinks served that night will forever be etched into my memory and immortalised here.
Over to you…
What have you made of Easter? How do you celebrate it among your family and friends?