Story originally posted 04.05.2012
The symbolic Easter foods memo never made it to my ultra-devout Mexican Catholic family. There was no celebratory lamb feast eaten as a lucky omen, no deviled eggs as a symbol of fertility. About as mainstream Easter foods as we got were Peeps — in all their granulated, mushy glory.
A traditional Easter feast – in the Cabral family tradition — consists of a Mexican-flavored picnic on the steep slopes of Granada Park. But my father never touched a spatula in his life, so no conventional carne asada here. Instead, we eat gorditas de huevo con chile rojo, hand-squished cakes of maize griddled on a thick cast iron comal. A little like a pupusa crossed with an English muffin, the cakes puff up to Mexican-birthday-party-jumper-like proportions when ready, and then are cut into with a dull knife and split in half.
We usually fill our gorditas with almost anything on hand: beans, cactus, and stewed meats. But during Easter, ours are only scantly filled with scrambled egg in a crimson chile sauce. Still, don't think that this is for religious reasons: My mother told me she had no idea eggs are a sign of fertility or renewal. Her reason was that they are the perfect picnic food: packed in many layers of thin tin foil, they still taste awesome even when out in the sun for a while. My Tia Chuy makes the best, hers were always stuffed a little more.
As a side dish, my mother brings a dozen bolillo rolls stuffed with chorizo-flecked refried beans and whey-soaked queso fresco, cut in half to make them last, of course. And for dessert, capirotada! The Mexican bread pudding is mandatory in all regions of Mexico during these 40 days out of the year. It is a perfect example of Mexican ingenuity, making use of old stale bread by toasting it and layering it with lavish foods like nuts, dried fruit, candied cactus bits, or cheese. Together, similar to mole, they signify abundance. Come to think it, I guess the symbolic Easter foods memo did make it to us, well, in “Mexican time.”
If you would like to accidentally celebrate Easter with serendipitously celebratory foods too, the recipe for gorditas de huevos is available on a Saveur Magazine cover story I did on the rustic cuisine of Northern Mexico. You can view that recipe below or online, along with a dozen other picnic-friendly ones based on my parents' native ranchito in Zacatecas.