In College Point, as Easter approached, the bakeries filled with cross buns, pretzels, braided almond loaves, Easter cookies and marzipan treats. There were also large decorated sugar Easter eggs which had a hole in one end. When we looked into the hole we could see tiny bunny villages. There were also hot cross buns. Ma knew about the cross buns. Since Malta was part of the British Empire, Ma had eaten them in Malta, too.
We brought samples of our mothers’ holiday baking to school. There were lots of pretzels. Since they didn’t have fat or eggs, we could eat them during Lent without risking eternal damnation. I liked the braided loaves which had been covered with almond paste. They reminded me of colomba di Pasqua. I brought some kwarezimal to school. After I explained that the almond cookies didn’t have fat or eggs either, my friends agreed to try them.
Easter for my family was a simple celebration. We went to church, wished everyone a “Happy Easter”, went home and ate our traditional foods. There weren’t any problems until the year Ma’s brother Charlie married an American girl. Aunt Liz wanted to learn more about Maltese customs. Ma invited Charlie and Liz for Easter.
Pop told his oldest sister, Aunt Demi, that we had invited Charlie and Liz. Aunt Demi was worried that our branch of the family was becoming too American. So, Aunt Demi decided that she would come to dinner to make sure that Ma kept everything kosher.
Then Aunt Rita, one of my Sicilian Aunts, heard that we were inviting company for Easter. Aunt Rita always took things personally. She was insulted. Why hadn’t she been invited, too? Ma invited Aunt Rita, Uncle Tony and their children. We had enough folding tables and chairs to seat everyone in the yard. As long as it didn’t rain, Ma thought it would be a nice family dinner.
Easter Sunday morning the sun was shining and the lamb was roasting on a spit in our yard. The tables had been set. Aunt Liz was taking notes and learning recipes. She had brought a dozen cross buns and a jello mold. The only thing missing was the centerpiece. Aunt Demi had told Ma that she would bring a proper figolli.
It was the biggest figolli I’d ever seen. The icing was as thick as my thumb. While Aunt Demi was placing the Easter egg on her mermaid, Aunt Rita marched in and pulled a Colomba di Pasqua out of her tote bag. The colomba had a three-foot wingspan. There was barely room enough for one centerpiece.
Fish or fowl, which would Ma use?