Tragedy struck our Easter table this year.
Every family has their important holiday dishes. Maybe Grandma makes a special stuffing at Thanksgiving, or Mom's sugar cookies make Christmas special. My entire holiday-eating year revolves around my mom's Peas and Cheese, served only at Easter alongside the ham, scalloped potatoes, creamed corn, and hot buttery buns. Peas and Cheese is one of those trashy sort of salads that one must acquire a taste for, and trust me, I've acquired it, as have most of my sisters, brother in laws, nieces and nephews.
Our typical family spreads have twenty-plus of us seated at one large table made up of smaller card tables covered in Mom's finest linen, crystal, China, and silver. There are place cards directing us where to sit, but if a guest arrives at the Easter table early enough she can manipulate the bowl of Peas and Cheese so that it is closest to her plate. (When you grow up in a family of five hungry sisters you quickly learn successful techniques in competitive eating.) This year, I arrived to the table late. An ominous shiver warned me of what was to come.
We passed the ham, the potatoes and corn. Wine glasses were filled. The kids had their milk. I piled pickled asparagus and olives and cranberries next to my fruit salad. "Where is the Peas and Cheese? Can somebody please pass the Peas and Cheese?" I felt my voice rising in desperation as finally the serving dish was passed my way. "Mom, is there another dish of salad?" I asked.
No. She had prepared only one dish of Peas and Cheese. And the bowl, now in my pitiful little hands, was bare. Those who had held the dish before passing it my way refused to meet my gaze. Their greed was affirmed in the mounds of beautiful green and yellow salad glistening with sweet dressing upon every plate.
Easter of 2013 will go down in my memory as the year there was too much snow for an egg hunt, there were no Peeps, and the Peas and Cheese dish was empty.
There are particular dishes that Moms make best, and no matter how often we attempt to duplicate her delivery, it can never live up to the memory of Mom's meatballs, Mom's fried chicken, or Mom's salmon croquettes. A few years ago I learned that the reason my mom's tuna fish sandwiches and Peas and Cheese are so much better than mine is because she uses Miracle Whip. I am a mayo snob, so the thought of adding Miracle Whip to my shopping list rattles me. It would be too much like shopping at Walmart, or adding canned soup to a casserole. However, when a girl is jonesing post-Easter for a bowl of Peas and Cheese she can overlook a world of embarrassment. Miracle Whip happened to be on sale at my grocery store last week, so I snuck some into my cart.
My Peas and Cheese varies from Mom's slightly as I've added mustard, celery salt, and radishes. But on my plate next to a sturdy pork chop it sure hits the spot. And I've got enough for seconds.
Peas and Cheese
1/3 cup Miracle Whip
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon celery salt
5 red radishes, diced
3 green onions, diced
Salt and pepper
10 ounce package frozen peas, thawed
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
Whisk together Miracle Whip, sugar, mustard, celery salt, radish, and onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper (you may not need any salt). Stir in peas and cheese. Chill one hour before serving.