Thursday, April 17, 2014

Growing up, Easter for me always meant one thing. Well, maybe two things. Or several things. But apart from the chocolate bunnies and the Easter egg hunts and my mom's rhubarb pie, there's one tradition I want to talk about today. One which, as I've gotten older, has actually become more important to me than all those other things (okay, the rhubarb pie is still pretty special).
Portuguese sweet bread has always been an annual treat that my mom made at Easter. Buttery, tender, and ever so slightly sweet, it's perfect toasted for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. But I could go on and on about how delicious the stuff is. As my mother and I spent the day in the kitchen beating eggs, counting cups of flour and punching dough, what was important was that I saw my great-grandmother come to life in that bread. My great-grandmother, who came from Portugal without speaking a word of English, without knowing if she would see her parents again, and who at the age of 14 lived a much more fascinating life than I can say I've had in my 22 years. Now that I know her story, Easter sweet bread is no longer just a nice treat that I get once a year, it's a tribute to her. Every recipe came from somewhere, and following that recipe is like reading a story. The best part is that you get to make it into your own version of the story.

Now every Easter I look forward not only to eating that tasty, tasty bread, I also relish the day-long labor of love it takes to make it.

I don't think my great-grandmother ever wrote down a recipe for her bread, but at some point it seems that a family member came across a recipe in a newspaper or magazine which came close, and it is that faded clipping that my mom and I used as our guide. It may not be exactly the same as the bread my great-grandmother made, but somehow I don't think she'd mind.

1 comment:

  1. Oh lovely sweetbread! It has always been one of the best parts of Easter. Seeing pictures of you and Robin brought back all the memories of Vava the week before the "hoop de doo" making so much sweetbread. So many eggs in the pan! And the aroma filling the house was such a joy. I also have visions of Wowo making sweetbread in our house in San Bruno. She made so many buns! She always worried about them being too dry but all I remember was perfection. It makes me so happy to know your mom has always continued the tradition and that you will carry it on. Maybe we should add "Sweetbread day" to our family holidays. Ravioli day is just never enough.