So Many Surprises — these are a few of my favorite things…
Part I / Breakfast
It’s Easter morning and I’m visiting friends in Salzburg. It’s one of the best times to be here. Not too many tourists. The weather is glorious, though there’s still snow in the alps. Trees are budding, birds are chirping Mozart, the grass is juicy green and Lederhosen never looked better. Families are out walking, biking, sitting on benches and worshipping the return of sun.
I’m sitting at the Easter breakfast table, trying to make sense of the colors, flowers, special Easter dishes, cards, candles and food spread out. I’ve just sliced the lamb’s buttocks off and slathered butter all over it. It’s a bundt cake in the shape of a lamb…the Osterlämmchen. My friend tells me the cake mould is a cast-iron heirloom from her grandmother. Every year she bakes a sacrificial Easter lamb. It’s tradition. This year’s lamb got stuck in the form, so one side looks a little rough—like it had been out drinking the night before. I tell my friend, we all have a good and a bad side. It’s the Jekyll and Hyde Osterlämmchen. Nonetheless, it’s delicious and I can’t stop at one slice. Lent is over, let the games begin!
There’s a bowl of brightly-colored eggs on the table. The 10-year old daughter hands me a green one and says “let’s peck eggs.” Eierpecken it’s called here. I have absolutely no idea what she’s talking about.
“What’s Eierpecken,” I ask? She laughs and says, “you don’t know what Eierpecken is…don’t you do this at Easter too?”
Eyes gleaming, she shows me how to hold my egg. “I’m usually the winner and this will be my winning egg,” she says to me victoriously. The idea of the game is to tap or peck one end of your egg against your opponent’s end. If your end smashes or cracks, you lose. A simple game. I’ve never seen so many colored hard-boiled eggs on a table, and never a yolk more vibrant and orange. They put our sad, imprisoned GMO-American eggs to shame. The 10-year old beats me every time we smash eggs. She gloats and tells me I need practice.
“What am I supposed to do with all these eggs now,” I ask the girl-champion.
“Peel them and eat them,” she says. My friend quickly interrupts her daughter to tell me that the best solution for the egg loser is to slice up the eggs, add some diced pickles and mayonnaise and make a sandwich. “You’ll feel better about yourself.”
How right she is.
Part II / To Oma’s for Brunch
It’s springtime in Salzburg so we bike to Grandma’s over the bridges and through the fields—literally. It takes only 20 minutes to get there from downtown. Happy messengers greet us as we ride by…daisies, daffodils, hyacinths, forsythia. Peoples’ gardens are tidy and ordered, accented by Easter baubles, doorsteps arrangements and window scenes.
My friends tell me is that Oma’s Easter brunch is good. That’s it. I’m not prepared for what’s to come (later wishing I had packed elastic waist pants).
I’ve met Oma before, but never dined in her home. What a gift to mortals, this woman. She embodies everything lovely that Salzburg is…refined and authentic, a delicate yet strong soul who turns everything she touches into a work of art.
Oma’s living-room is an eruption of color and choices. Where to start, what to do first? OMG. On my left, platters of laser-thin ham and salami. To the right, a basket of breads and rolls, umpteen cheeses, spreads, cream sauces with chives another with caviar, and relishes for the smoked salmon filet, a beef aspic, a wilted arugula and grape salad, berries…It’s sensory overload! For this buffet, I would also resurrect from the dead. It’s a joke I try to make and I get the seriously ugly American look in return.
I glance over the tables set up in an intimate dinner-club style. Fresh tulips and violets on every table, a mountain of hard-boiled eggs—56 to be exact. The decorated Easter Tree in the corner. I take a seat on an elegant green settee, soft and welcoming like Oma herself. Take a moment and be thankful, be grateful you have friends like this who invite you into their homes and share these intimate moments. These are my thoughts. This is my Easter blessing.
I look down and wonder at the delectable thing in front of me? My friend who can read my mind turns and says, “it’s an Osterpinze.” There are many variations of this sweet bun (depending on which part of Austria). Mine is shaped like a mini-wreath with a red hard-boiled egg perched in the middle, like a nest. This egg must be red, I’m told. The color of blood and life, the blood of Christ on the cross. Soon, the girl-champion is at my side with her egg in hand. “Eierpecken,” she commands. She destroys my egg ends and moves onto her next victim.
Let me just say two words about this Easter bun. Holy $#^! These Easter buns were served with butter, fresh strawberries and conifer honey. It was so good I almost cried.
The mood is convivial. This family enjoys each other’s company. The teen boys disappear upstairs to connect with their friends while the little ones keep their mothers busy. There’s talk of Oma’s ancestral home in Braunau; America’s next president; about ancient Persians whose religious beliefs include the sacred reverence of food; and of Nasenmänner…the little booger men who live in our noses. The young ones are at the age where this topic had to be discussed at length.
The good Easter vibes are far from over, but the author is weary and getting hungry recounting the day.
She’s reminded of an Bavarian drinking song that goes…”Liebe, Trinke, Rauche bis zum letzten Hauche” (Love, Drink and be Merry until the last Breath).
That basically sums it up.