The chocolate-less Easter

Australians are the biggest consumers of chocolate at Easter. I read that somewhere (in an article on taste.com.au that is no longer there). Even if it´s not 100% true, Australians have to be in a top 5 consumers of chocolate at Easter. We´re nuts about the Easter Bunny and egg hunts and all sizes of eggs from the little ones to the super-dooper huge ones. Then there are bunnies, bilbys and mugs with eggs inside them. There are little chocolate chickens and there are chocolate carrots (for the Easter Bunny who still wants his carrot).

So here I am in Colombia on the other side of the world to the Easter chocolate frenzy. There is not a chocolate egg in sight. Not even a little marshmallow chicken. And there is definitely no Easter Bunny. When I learned that the Tooth Fairy here is called El Raton Perez, I asked about El Conejo de Pascua and was met with furrowed brows of confusion. Nope, here is it all about Jesus on the cross.

I kind of expected a low dosage of chocolate and Easter eggs as when I was in Latin America in 2004 there weren´t any of my traditional bunnies and eggs. However this article says Brazil has the second highest consumption in the world. When I was in Brazil for Easter 2004 I consoled my Easter egg fix with the Brazilian style of Easter egg. I can attest to the fact they are clear plastic egg shapes with normal chocolates and truffles inside hung from the ceiling rather than stacked on shelves.

I spent Easter 2011 in the United States and I was surprised by the lack of Easter eggs in the stores. Very surprised.

Chocolate, peanut, sultana and coconut filled and decorate eggs
These are the chocolate, peanut, sultana and coconut filled eggs D and I made and decorated

I´m keen to introduce my Aussie Easter traditions to my Colombian family and since having my Australian family ship an Easter Care Package faces the problems of unreliable (if existent) postal service and extreme (ie melting point) heat, I need to get DIY on the Easter Egg front.

I´ve thought about making my own chocolates. Not too hard right? Well it helps when you have the plastic moulds to make them in and my favourite baking supply store doesn´t stock an egg shaped mould.

The other day I read a tutorial for dyed eggshells filled with chocolate, fruit and nuts on Ali Does It Herself. A bit of traditional egg dying and decorating with the inside goodness of a solid chocolate egg. It was laborious but not too hard. Although Ali didn’t mention that piping the chocolate filling from a plastic ziplock requires hands of steel, or at the very least, oven mitts.  But, all the effort and burnt palms are worth it. Easter is saved. There is chocolate!

It´s a bit of a tangent to this post on Colombia´s lack of Easter eggs, but I came across an interesting article about where the ingredients come from to make them and it got me thinking. Imagine that your chocolate-a-day habit pays the daily wage of a cocoa worker and that the even more expensive Easter eggs and bunnies are at least two day´s wages. For the cocoa workers who barely earn enough to feed their families and have a roof for shelter, a chocolate bar is a complete luxury. Who has ever been haunted by the poverty of Charlie Bucket´s family in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and their sacrifices to buy Charlie a chocolate bar in hopes of a golden ticket? That poverty is the reality of cocoa workers in many places in the world (Oompa-Loompas have better work conditions and can eat all the cacao beans they like). From where I live, I can see that this type of poverty is the case for many Colombians too.

If you celebrate Easter, whether for religious or chocolate reasons, I wish you a very Happy Easter! Maybe like in other holidays celebrated throughout the year, we can also think about those who are less fortunate and perhaps donate the value of an Easter egg to a worthy cause.

The Photo Vault: Statue of Christ

 

A striking crucifixion of Jesus statue in Encarnacion, Paraguay
A striking crucifixion of Jesus statue in Encarnacion, Paraguay

Encarnacion, Paraguay, 2004

I was in Encarnacion to visit the Jesuit ruins and took this photo in the early evening while wandering around the city after having just arrived. I never made it to the ruins (instead I visited those in Posadas, Argentina) as it rained all day and ended up indulging in a trashy day watching MTV and jumping around on my double bed in a private room to the music. The small joys of budget travellers. However the image of this statue has stuck with me all these years and is on my list of favourite statues for its construction and materials. I love the pose and the skyward look. The hands are so interesting and kind of alien, taking in far less detail than the face and crown of thorns. He also doesn’t have feet and instead the gown ends in a Casper the Friendly Ghost esque tail, signifying Jesus’ transition I suppose. I guess one of more obvious parts is that Jesus isn’t on a cross, and that’s what makes this statue interesting and unique.

If you celebrate Easter, whether for religious or chocolate reasons, I wish you a wonderful weekend.

The Photo Vault is where I will be sharing striking photos (and their stories) that deserve better than being lost in the depths of my iPhoto never to be shared.

A kitchen isn’t complete without an apron

Being hostess
Vintage apron, dress and necklace. Brand new pavlova.

Entertaining at Easter was the perfect excuse to get about in my new vintage apron.

J and I had decided to put on a lunch for a bunch of friends and given that she is vegetarian, I said I’d cook the roast while she prepared the vegetables.

Roast lambRoast lamb in the oven

Going to Gelson’s, there were only two sizes to choose from, a half leg and then a full leg. The full leg weighed 7.55lb (which is about 3.5kg). I have never cooked a leg of lamb on the bone before so I was a little nervous to attack such a big piece, but I did a lot of research on the net as to how long I should cook it for and at what temperature. Converting weight and temperature is not my favourite thing, but eventually I figured that I should cook it at 325°F for 2 and a half hours. I think the winning element was resting it for around 20 minutes. It came out perfectly. Tender, easy to carve (also something I’d also never done before was carve off the bone) and totally delicious.

J cooked some traditional American Easter recipes from her grandmother which were fab and went down a treat. She made baked beans, scalloped corn and cornbread. Yum, and a little touch of the US in what was a mostly Australian affair.

Chocolate Ripple Cake
Chocolate Ripple Cake

We also introduced our two American guests to the delights of pavlova and chocolate ripple cake which was courtesy of the chocolate ripple biscuits sent in my care package.

Since Jolena was over, J organised an Easter egg hunt in the “backyard”. Now I’m not sure our backyard can really be called anything but a carpark, but still, it had some great hiding spots and she had fun finding them (as did I).

Easter hostesses
Me and J celebrating a great day

It was a lovely Easter with old friends and new, and J and I had so much fun entertaining.

Love from the Easter Bunny

Easter egg stash
Look what the Easter Bunny brought!

When I left Australia at the very beginning of February, there were already Easter eggs for sale in the supermarket.

Three months later, Easter has arrived and I almost missed it. I expected Americans (who love a celebration and love to eat junk food and are typically more religious than Australians) to really get behind Easter. I expected to see a mad assortment of eggs, bunnies and Easter paraphernalia. I expected to be absolutely bombarded with Easter consumerism. I didn’t and I wasn’t.

At home I would be able to find a whole aisle at a supermarket or department store dedicated to Easter. That and dozens of hot cross buns tempting me. Here, it was a struggle to find anything much other than tiny little eggs or the stuff required to make an Easter basket. In one place I saw Lindt bunnies for sale, but that was the largest chocolate Easter bunny I could find.

Only small sections of aisles or a table at my local supermarket offered up any kind of Easter merchandise. While it was kind of nice to avoid all the Easter consumerism fanfare and the temptation to buy chocolate for anyone and everyone that I possibly know and take hot cross buns to work to feed my colleagues, it also didn’t feel the same. It didn’t feel particularly celebratory, like “here’s some time off for you to spend with your family and friends and get out and about in your country”. I guess the fact that Easter Monday is not a public holiday here changes things a bit.

BUT the Easter Bunny did find his way to my place to leave some eggs, including some Reese’s peanut butter filled chocolate eggs, and he left the chocolate in the shape of a cross on the shelf at Rite-Aid.