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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Foodie Sunday: My mother's Easter dinner, Mandy Aftels "Honey Blossom" and a fabulous prize draw!

By Beth

When I was a kid Easter dinner was something that I really looked forward to because my mother pulled out all of the stops. I think that she really loved the holiday ; as a young woman growing up in the small town of Champaign in Illinois there wasn’t much in the way of a Jewish Community so she had the distinct pleasure of being able to celebrate any of the holidays that she wanted. I think that they always celebrated Passover but that was about it for the Jewish traditions and if you’ve ever spent anytime at all in a small town, you know that the communities live for their holidays. My mom used to talk all of the time about the 4th of July parades and the door to door Christmas caroling, but what she loved the most were the May Day baskets that she made for her neighbors and the huge Easter dinners that her mother would prepare complete with colored eggs, hidden Easter baskets and her famous floating Island pudding!

My mothers Easter dinners were every bit as lavish as her mothers and absolutely beautiful. When I’d wake up on Easter morning fresh daffodils, honeysuckle (my mothers favorite!) and lilacs would be everywhere and she’d be standing in the kitchen slicing fresh garlic to tuck into the leg of lamb. The scent of her house was always amazing and her windows would be thrown open to let in the fresh spring air. The table would be already be set with her mothers lovely white and gold Haviland dishes and a flowered cloth and her sterling would be gleaming and laid out on the sideboard ready for me to set it into order along with the sparkling water and white wine goblets that were waiting alongside. I always knew that she was happy because she’d be humming old show tunes……a sure sign that she was relaxed and enjoying herself! The dinner itself was always completely delicious, lamb, potatoes and fresh asparagus, fresh pickled beets and hard boiled eggs and usually a chilled pea and fresh mint soup or a fresh carrot soup in honor of the Easter bunny that she’d scented with a bit of lemon, parsley and ginger!

After I’d peeled the hard boiled eggs for her pickled beets I would run off happily to find my Easter basket which she always hid in the most ingenious places. My mother loved games and she was quite good at them! After about a half an hour of hunting I’d finally find it. Her Easter baskets were legendary! She always filled mine with the newest Breyer horse model and lots of chocolate and spice (never fruit!) jelly beans. She always picked the black ones out. That was our game ! She loved the black licorice ones and I hated them so If I saved them all for her then she’d be sure to give me an extra helping of the purple clove scented ones which I adored.

And then there was the lamb cake!

We had a very famous bakery in town until about 20 years ago called The Hough Bakery. Native Clevelanders are known to get tears in their eyes and wax nostalgically over the thought of a Hough Bakery birthday cake. In this era of Food Network stars and fancy bakeries and cakeries there still isn’t anything quite as good as a Hough cake. I don’t know what it was that made them seem so special, but special they were. A Hough birthday cake was the perfect combination of almondy , fluffy moistness with sugary crunchy frosting, nothing like those funny whipped frostings that seem to be the only things that you can buy these days. They personalized everything and if you gave them pictures or ideas they would replicate entire scenes on their flat sheet cakes. I remember one particularly satisfying birthday when my cake was a managerie of all of my animals from my ponies to my cats with a huge “Happy Birthday Beth” on the blue ribbon fluttering gaily on the ponies bridle! Such is the stuff that wonderful childhood memories are made of.……

Aside from the most amazing mushroom pie that I’ve ever tasted to this day, Hough Bakery made several wonderful confections for Easter like almond and honey scented petit fours in the shape of eggs and decorated with that delightful sugary glaze frosting and sugar flowers as well as a spring basket made of a wonderful white cake and covered with huge mounds of colorful frosting flowers. But, as all Cleveland kids of a certain age know, the most luscious treat of all was the sacred Easter lamb cake!

The Hough bakery lamb cake was delicious and definitely shaped like a lamb, covered with mounds of fluffy white frosting. It was a constant thing on my mothers table and year after year lay peacefully on its bed of shredded coconut, tinted green to be grass with yummy sugar flowers in it’s pasture and jelly beans galore! My mom put it on her mothers lovely silver tray and placed in the center of the table, the guest of honor at her lovely Easter dinner! It smelled incredible, just like butter almond , honey , spun sugar and violet pastilles.

I have many memories of those days but the most wonderful would be the day that she hid my Easter basket underneath the Honeysuckle bush that was in full bloom that Easter. I fortunately wasn’t allergic to bees, because that bush was covered with them, but it was huge and fragrant and I was little enough to still believe in flower fairies (well I still do actually!) and I spent the whole morning laying underneath it’s boughs , galloping my plastic horses around and gorging on spicy jellybeans and chocolate until I was almost sick!

That treasured memory came rushing back to me the other day when I received a sample of Mandy Aftels absolutely gorgeous Honey Blossom perfume. I carried Mandy’s first book, Essence and Alchemy around with me for days after I read it, loath to put it down and later on when I became even more involved in the world of natural perfumes I began to seek out her fragrances. Honey Blossom is my favorite to date and the transcendent Linden beauty lingers on my skin like a sheer caress of spring wind. I adore Linden fragrances and Honey Blossom is absolutely that , but really so much more. When I wear it I get swept away by the linden but then I fall madly in love with the orange blossom and what seems to be something altogether magical like jasmine , but a fairy kissed jasmine which is almost a bit sugary and devilish , like jasmine that’s just dripping with a white truffled honey.

Afteliers Honey Blossom is an exquisite blend of alchemy and high fragrance art . It is beguiling and utterly flirtatious but oddly comforting too. It instantly returns me to the memories of the home that I grew up in. My parents had gorgeous gardens that they created themselves and they were always bit wild , a little untamed. Honey Blossom IS the scent of those gardens and my version of Dorothy’s ruby slippers. Three drops and I am aloft in the springtime winds, landing gently at the base of that beautiful honeysuckle from so long ago.

This year, Mandy Aftel has been nominated for not one , but THREE FiFi awards in the Consumers Choice Niche Perfume Category. This is a fabulous honor not only for Mandy but all of the incredible perfumers who inhabit my beloved world of Natural Perfumery! Honey Blossom is one of the distinguished finalists and this is the first time ever that one natural perfume let alone three has ever been nominated for such a prestigious award! For more information and instructions on how you can vote please click here!

Now for the fun part! I have a wonderful Easter present for one of you. Mandy has generously sent me a beautiful sample of Honey Blossom and three of her incredible Chefs essences, Ginger, Black Pepper and Litsea Cubeba! The ginger is magnificently gingery yet a bit floral and just one drop enhances my mothers recipe for carrot soup to perfection. I also like it mixed into a bit of sparkling water and agave nectar for a delightful home made ginger ale! The black pepper essence is a sensory delight, a savory yet spicy fresh pepper that I tried in my recipe for Bordeaux poached pears. The result was a pear that melted I my mouth with the right bit of zing, not heat. Served over fresh vanilla bean vegan ice cream it was was incredible! The Litsea Cubeba is lemony and spicy all at the very same time. One drop stirred into a glass of Iced tea is sublime , but one drop of the essence stirred into a vinaigrette and laced over an arugula and raw goat cheese salad is absolutely and ridiculously delicious. Mandy tells me that she searches the world for the very best quality essences and with one taste you know that she’s completely serious about it. These are incredible and my darlings please remember …only a drop because they are strong. These bottles will last a long time if you keep them in a cool dry place.

If you want a chance a this incredible prize draw just leave me a comment and share with me one of your favorite Easter (or Passover) memories!

One last thing….. The winner of the luscious lavender syrup for The Springtime Cocktail Party Foodie Sunday is Katherine! Just contact Marina at the address on the right!

Easter Basket cake photograph courtesy of Archies Lakeshore Bakery. Honey Blossom perfume images used with permission of Mandy Aftel. Honeysuckle Fairy Image courtesy of

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Anonymous Felicia said...

Fave Easter memory: hunting for eggs with sister and cousins in the wild, windswept 'park' on the hill behind my grandparents house. Gnarled trees, tall dry grasses, the bright west coast light and air, and chocolates!

12:09 AM EDT  
Blogger Maggie O'Boyle said...

I'm also a Clevelander (now in exile in Minneapolis) and one of my favorite Easter memories were the butter lambs from the Westside Market. They always had a red ribbon around their neck and often had cloves or sesame seeds for eyes. I also remember and mourn Hough's wonderful birthday cakes and that unbelievable frosting.

12:09 AM EDT  
Anonymous Jiyin said...

The day before Easter, my mom would hard boil a couple dozen eggs, and she, my sister and I would draw designs on the shells with watercolor markers. My mom always made a beautiful, fanciful Humpty Dumpty. Mine were always very clumsily drawn. The next morning, they would be hidden in the garden, for us to find. Because I was younger and much less clever than my sister, my father would always cheat on my behalf, indicating with his eyes to me where an egg was hidden in the cabbages or in the hibiscus, from where he stood on the back porch.

What a lovely prize draw, please enter me, and thank you!

1:09 AM EDT  
Anonymous Lavanya said...

Oh My God! What a great giveaway! I've heard such great things about Mandy's chef's essences and would love to try them!!

For me Easter reminds me of how Good Friday was always a holiday when I was growing up in India..I don't have specific Easter memories but I do remembering painting eggs in school ..

Happy Easter, Beth!

1:36 AM EDT  
Anonymous hongkongmom said...

Hi Beth

Well we are about to enter the last two days of the 8 days of Passover...the Exodus and freedom of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.

The strongest memory of this time would perhaps make most people sad, but because of a very strong faith, I was able to transcend the passing of my beloved baby daughter 15 yrs ago on the 1st day of passover, and liking her passing ofter a short but terminal illness, to the liberation of the Jews. Only it was a spiritual liberation.

Now memories are filled with aluminium foil covered kitchens, loads of matzah and simple styled cooking with basic ingredients.

I would love to enter this world of Mandy's. The CEO gave me her book as a birthday gift a few years ago!

2:16 AM EDT  
Blogger Tama said...

My housemates and I are being forced from our home soon (landlady selling the house) and I know this will be our last Easter living together. My housemate always makes a lambie cake with coconut fleece and jellybean eyes. We usually color eggs together, but may not this year due to time restraints, but we will have our traditional Easter dinner of ham, potato salad, veggies, etc. Bittersweet.

Great prize!! I love Honey Blossom, and would love to try the essences.

2:26 AM EDT  
Anonymous Lilybug said...

Easter was never a big thing for us but I loved painting eggs.

I've not yet tried anything of Mandy's. I must rectify this.

2:41 AM EDT  
Anonymous london said...

My Easter memories all involve chocolate so they blur into each other, I'm afraid! I don't think I can differentiate one in particular. I love the sound of Honey Blossom though.

2:42 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. And here I thought that inserting the garlic wedges into the lamb was my own family's idea!
One good memory I have is of my friend and I making Ukrainian eggs before Easter every year. We still enjoy bringing them out and seeing how we've improved over the years.
Please enter me to win the lovely essences. Thanks.

4:35 AM EDT  
Blogger queen_cupcake said...

I loved reading about your Easter memories! One of my favorite memories is the car trip my family took to Florida. Little brother had the back seat; my sister and I and all of our Barbies had the cargo area in the back of the station wagon. Easter came when we were en route, but somehow the Easter Bunny knew where we were staying, and left baskets for us in our motel rooms. As I was about 14 years old, my basket had a little candy and a Coty perfume and powder set, instead of the large chocolate rabbit. I felt so grown up!

6:48 AM EDT  
Blogger ololiuqui said...

Every holiday spend with your family or close friends can be a special moment.I enjoy the days around easter when I come to my town.We have a beautiful gaden which in this moment is blooming, everything is green the trees and all the spring flowers,are showing their beauty.Sometimes even during winter,I remeber this picture and the smell of our blooming garden.
The most special part of course is the Eater dinner and the afternoon spend in the garden drinking tea on the table,under the blooming lilac.

Happy Easter,to everyone!

6:58 AM EDT  
Blogger marsha said...

Beth: Your stories are always so incredible! And I must see about getting Mandy Aftel's book. My favorite Easter memory is an Easter egg hunt where I found the prize egg! I got a chocolate bunny, of course. I would love to participate in the draw.

7:24 AM EDT  
Anonymous sybil said...

Easter memory: My 3 siblings and I counting our jellybeans to make sure that we each got the same number...what can I say, we were crazy competitive. And the usual fun of seeing our cousins. I also remember my mom (who is a talented baker) making a lamb cake, covered in coconut. By the time it was served, we were all maxed out on jellybeans and chocolate, and pretty much incapable of giving it any attention.

8:18 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a child in Germany, I remember the cakes in the shape of a lamb that were at the local markets. They must have been very different from the ones in the US, because they were not very sweet. As a child, I found it disappointing to have something so pretty taste more or less like bread.

8:50 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fabulous giveaway! Honey Blossom sounds delightful. Have you tried Andy Tauer's Zeta? If so, can you compare the two?

One of my favorite memories involves choosing a hat to wear to church on Easter Sunday. In those days, Catholic women & girls were required to cover their hair in church. Since this was a special occasion, my mother took me to the nicest store in town to buy my Easter bonnett. I chose hat after hat from the glass case until I found the perfect little bonnett.

I don't think of myself as a hat person now--short curly hair and a large head means most hats aren't flattering--but the pretty white hat with ribbons looked perfect. The store is long gone, and no one wears hats to church anymore, but I treasure the memory of my new Easter bonnett.

Ann C

9:02 AM EDT  
Blogger Proximity said...

One of my best Easter-related memories is from when I was a kid. I must have been about 9 years old. One of my mom's old friends came to visit the day before Easter. She and her husband owned their own quirky one of a kind farm where they grew and raised whatever they felt like ... including ostriches. She brought ostrich eggs for my brother and I to dye! It was amazing. I was so filled with wonder that this giant thing was actually an egg!

9:25 AM EDT  
Blogger Isa said...

My Easter memories are the trips to the countryside with my parents, uncles, aunts, cousins... It's a tradition in the South-East of Spain. Usually families go on a trip and have a picnic. We eat tablets of chocolate, hard-boiled eggs and a kind of bun called "mona".
I still go on a trip with my boyfriend, but I can't forget the old days of my childhood, when we sang trip songs and skipped rope.

9:27 AM EDT  
Blogger Alice said...

My mom must have dyed our eggs while we were sleeping (or maybe while we were at school). My two younger sisters and I would be dressed in our matching Easter dresses all ready for Church before we started our Easter Egg hunt. We would find our Easter baskets, already filled with jelly beans and chocolate bunnies. The eggs (3 dozen- a dozen for each of us) were well hidden in the back yard every year. We almost never found all the eggs...that Easter bunny was way too good at hiding the eggs at our house! We would be playing outside a month or so later and find the last egg. After Church, Mom would get the ham out of the oven and serve it with Garlic Cheese Grits and a green vegetable. She served the Watergate salad, almost like dessert, on Easter as well! (pistachio pudding powder, Cool Whip, crushed pineapple, pecans and marshmallows) I can smell the Cheese Grits right now if I close my eyes....

9:27 AM EDT  
Anonymous Denise Miller said...

A tasty tradition in our family is my Mom's "Lamb Cake". A buttery yellow cake baked into a mold of a sitting baby lamb. When cooled, it was frosted white and then patted with coconut. Black jelly beans for the eyes and thin red licorice for the mouth. My brother and I would fight over who got the head, as neither of us wanted the rear. Happy Easter/Passover all.
Thanks for entering me in the prize draw too. :)

10:43 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:58 AM EDT  
Blogger damageddude said...

My favorite Easter memory was visiting the family. Each house had it's own scent. Grandma had a powdery rose going on and Aunt Jane had a tobacco cinnamon thing going on. Yum!

11:39 AM EDT  
Blogger Janet said...

Beth- You are such a beautiful writer. I look forward to Foodie Sunday every week.

I loved the Eater outfits! My sister and I always got matching dresses and as a younger sister I loved it, not sure that my sister did!

Thanks to you and Mandy for a great prize!

11:55 AM EDT  
Anonymous Ashleyron said...

Yes!! Id love it! So springy :)

12:31 PM EDT  
Blogger mandy said...

Thank you so much Beth for this rich piece on my Honey Blossom and chefs essences but also about food and memories and connection.
Mandy Aftel

2:26 PM EDT  
Blogger smartshopper2 said...

My favorite Easter memories is when we'd hide the eggs and baskets for our kids when they were young. They had so much fun and we loved watching them laugh and hunt. Theyre too old for all that now.

3:22 PM EDT  
Anonymous Karen said...

My grandma had a house, in the city with a large backyard. Since she was from the country, she couldn't help growing vegetables including corn. This was the perfect setting for Easter egg hunts. It must have been an adorable sight of myself and 2 other girl cousins (boys weren't born yet) in our flouncy Easter dresses and white shoes searching through the corn stalks and collard greens. Hatband always made sure we had a great time!

3:44 PM EDT  
Anonymous BARBARA O said...

The Easters before my mom died, they were wonderful food & fun! Yes put me in the drawing.

3:50 PM EDT  
Blogger Margaret said...

What a lovely post, thank you for sharing your memories. Hummingbird Cake is my favorite Easter memory- full of banana chunks, pineapple, and pecans. One of my Mother's best recipes! I would love to try Mandy's Honey Blossom perfume!

4:04 PM EDT  
Anonymous ElizabethC said...

My favorite childhood memory of Easter is dying eggs with melted wax designs. Great fun!!! Nowadays, Easter is my Aunt's holiday and she throws great dinners. Lamb, jelly beans and negronis in great abundance!

Please enter me in the drawing, it sounds amazing!

4:37 PM EDT  
Blogger Jill said...

I loved coloring the eggs more than anything, and the searching, I always let someone else eat them though ;)

5:10 PM EDT  
Anonymous Tiara said...

My favorite Easter memory really belongs to my aunts. They tell the story about the Easter my father crept downstairs before anyone was awake and ate the bottom half of everyone's chocolate Easter bunny in their basket. He put each one back quite carefully so my grandmother wouldn't be suspicious. Dad had 5 sisters and a brother so it's a wonder he didn't make himself sick.

I've worn Zeta but am anxious to try Mandy's Honey Blossom!

7:30 PM EDT  
Anonymous Yogifarmgirl Jenn said...

My mom always made such beautiful easter cakes of charming easter animals like bunnies, lambs etc. She is continuing the tradition now with mine and my siblings children and they still gasp at the cakes with the same wonder that me and my siblings once did...priceless!

9:06 PM EDT  
Blogger HJ said...

My memories centre around all the kids piling into my parent's bed to snuggle, receiving a gift of
Easter eggs and a new pair of fleecy pj's (pyjamas) for the coming winter (Aust). Mum would always package our gifts beautifully, with tiny little fluffy yellow chicks, curling ribbon and cellophane. Then my brothers and I would trundle out to the kitchen to make our parents breakfast in bed and feast on home made hot crossed buns. It was a family day of good cheer! I have another distinct memory of being very young, searching for hidden eggs in my uncle’s front yard with all my cousins, and it being a beautiful crisp blue skied autumn day!

How lovely it is to reminisce!

Thank you and Mandy for the lovely draw!


11:04 PM EDT  
Anonymous Natalia said...

Easter - always Paskhas, what we called raised tall orthodox sweet breads, that mom made in dosens - she was great at baking... and playing the "whose egg shell is the hardest" little game at the morning breakfast table :)

3:41 AM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Oh my goodness!
One of the reasons that I love writing for PST so much is because I get to read all of these amazing comments. I love hearing about your special connects me to all of you so much! I hope that everyone had a wonderful Easter and thank you for helping to make mine even more perfect!

8:50 AM EDT  
Anonymous Cynthia said...

My favorite Easter memories were when my kids were small. I would go all out planning elaborate Easter egg hunts. Also, they still let me choose their clothes back then, so they would be outfitted adorably for church!

I have been lusting after this Honey Blossom, and if I don't win I guess I need to order a sample. It's been on my "want" list for awhile now.

11:09 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

I would love to be included in the draw. I didn't have the tradition upbringing that you wrote about. It's really lovely, but it's not what my life was. I have a couple of vague memories. The big sugar eggs that has a view inside, with some kind of rabbit or chick in side. My grandmother had these. I don't really recall, but do have a photo that brings to mind a trip to Busch Gardens with my grandparents. Ham, peas. Easter baskets, but just as much fun was decorating with Haas dyes. I'd never eat them since I don't like eggs - but loved to decorate them. Easter was always the least stressful holiday in my family and for that I was grateful.

12:05 PM EDT  
Blogger ccdouglass said...

I'm from Cleveland, too, and have fond memories of Hough cakes! It was so disappointing when they closed. As far as Easter memories are concerned, nothing beat the Easter basked full of goodies. Thanks for the draw!

2:17 PM EDT  
Blogger odonata9 said...

Lovely post - I would love to try that Honey blossom, it sounds so nice. I remember dyeing eggs with my mom in teacups with the metal egg holder and searching for our Easter baskets with my brother.

3:09 PM EDT  
Blogger Balutakat said...

My favorite Easter memory is about to happen. My roommate and I bought a dress, hat, shiny shoes, and gloves for a friend's little daughter, and made her an Easter basket. We don't have kids of our own and it was just so fun to go shopping and reminisce about what made it special for us as kids, and pick the rituals we liked best. :) Katherine B.

4:44 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One Passover when I was a child, we had our neighbors over for the seder. They were kosher, but our tradition included using butter on the veggies and capon. Oops. Worse still, our dessert was chocolate roll, a flourless chocolate cake rolled with whipped cream. We kept mum about the butter, but delayed dessert for a suitable interval. It was a long evening.
Please enter me for the drawing. I love honey perfumes. Happy holidays.

6:05 PM EDT  
Anonymous zeram1 said...

My favorite Easter memory would have to be egg hunting with all of my childhood friends in their backyard. Oh, how many of those hidden eggs were broken by our non-delicate ways! Please enter me in the draw as well.

8:23 PM EDT  
Blogger zboudreaux said...

Not sure if this draw is still open as Easter was yesterday... but I will never forget the springtime and the blooming lilacs and easter egg hunts in the yard as a kid. Lilacs! Oh how I miss you!

9:48 PM EDT  
Anonymous Stella Maris said...

The smell of vinegar as the eggs bobbed in cups full of different colored dyes.

10:01 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

My favorite easter memories are of my Mother making red eggs (using onion peels) and then having egg fights with my siblings.
The Honey Blossom frag sounds divine - must try it!

11:03 PM EDT  
Blogger Dink said...

My mother-in-law lived in Cleveland her entire life and she mourned the closing of Hough Bakery. It was such a part of her long life. I miss when my boys were young and they loved running around our yard finding plastic eggs filled with candy. Happy memories now that they are both grown up.

10:10 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My sister was diabetic, so the only time we had any sweets in the house was for Easter: Laura Secord's eggs, with the yellow&white fillings...AnnieA

3:15 PM EDT  
Anonymous maggiecat said...

My favorite Easter memory - no surprise here!- is Easter lillies! We bought these special flowers only once a year, and I adored (still do!) their lovely scent. That special once-a-year experience was so meaningful that I associate lillies with special occasions; I wore Diorissimo to my wedding. And I wore it again this past Sunday, where the scent of lillies mingled nicely with the smell of lamb in the oven.

11:28 AM EDT  
Blogger sunnlitt said...

One Easter morning, my brother and I found the end of a string waiting at our breakfast bowls. We ran through the house, following those strings, until we found our baskets hidden in closets somewhere in the house.
And, still to this day, we have Strawberry Freeze dessert for Easter. But, now I make it for the family.
Would love to be in the draw. Thanks.

12:48 PM EDT  
Blogger Charlotte said...

In MI, spring is unpredictable. One morning it would br suing and warm and the next ring or snowy. I recall several egg hunts in the snow. But my favorite hunt was when the Easter Bunny decided to hide eggs the night before (the plastic ones) in the backyard. The next morning, my brothers and I went on our hunt only to find that several of the eggs had been broken into and out candy treats missing. Wrappings were found next to the eggs. Therevwere several happy squirrels and birds that day!

12:27 AM EDT  

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