For millions of Southerners, Easter marks a time to come together to celebrate family and friends. For grown folks, it’s also a festive segue into the comforting warmth and vibrant colors of spring, when we shake off the sands of hibernation and reunite in celebration as we mark the beginning of sunnier days. Few appreciate this time of year more than former Southern Living magazine editor-at-large Christy Jordan, whose food blog Southern Plate boasts nearly one million visitors each month, almost 200,000 Facebook fans, and more than 60,000 digital newsletter subscribers.
The ninth-generation Alabamian and author of three cookbooks (“Southern Plate”, “Come Home to Supper”, and “Sweetness”) considers herself blessed by the South’s short winters and mild months. “Come Easter, we are ready for bright colors, spring flavors and sunshine,” Jordan told Southern Kitchen through email. Those few gray, gloomy months “are about all our subtropical bloodstreams can tolerate,” she added. “If the weather doesn’t cooperate, we provide it ourselves in the dishes we choose and the clothes we wear. Use this as an opportunity to get a little something new for your wardrobe and buy out your favorite parts of the fresh produce section.”
Read Jordan’s tips and tricks for hosting a festive Easter brunch below.
Easter decorations should be simple and delightful: bright explosions of pastel, and lots of them. Fresh bouquets of peonies and lavender bring the intoxicating scent of spring indoors. Broad-brimmed Champagne flutes add a festive flair to the tabletop. Even small flourishes, like a bow on the back of a chair, enhance the ambiance of the day.
To further create a welcoming atmosphere, Jordan suggests letting guests do what comes naturally. Establish a relaxing zone for adults to hide while the little ones run amok and chase eggs on the front lawn. Think dim lighting, muted colors and decorative vessels of holiday sweets. Sure, Easter is all about family, but for the older generation, it’s perfectly OK to find somewhere that, for at least a few minutes, remains a quiet, kid-free space.
“We set up a spot just for the teens and one for the younger ones as well,” said Jordan. “There is plenty of time to have fun all together, but this keeps the meal more relaxing and slower paced for everyone.”
No matter how pretty the surroundings, holiday festivities and traditions are what truly set the mood. “Our Easters are pretty laid back, but we do have some games on the lawn for younger kids,” said Jordan. She says, however, you shouldn’t limit yourself to the typical Easter egg hunts and egg rolls. As most folks know, Easter brings out some bold fashion choices in the South. How better to celebrate all that pastel than to stage a “Best Dressed” contest? While some won’t need any extra incentive (we all have those friends and family members), this playful competition will motivate partygoers to don their dapper oversized hats and Sunday-best shoes.
Another entertaining option is adding an Easter sensibility to non-holiday crowd-pleasers, and “Capture the Egg” is one of the best. After dividing players into two teams, have each side place different-colored eggs in their end zone. Whichever team retrieves the most eggs from the other team’s safe zone without getting tagged wins.
For Jordan, fresh produce captures the tenor of spring, and is key to making savory classics that are filling and delightful for the whole family, regardless of age. She likes to place a traditional Easter ham in the center of her dining table, surrounded by seasonal vegetables like asparagus, English peas and baby carrots, offering an essential sampling of the Southern garden.
No Easter meal is complete without a sampling of delicious side dishes, from a robust potato hash to a creamy spring pasta. But the “absolute must-have,” she said, is homemade yeast rolls, “preferably warm from the oven,” that fill the meal a sense of home. Try this buttery dinner roll recipe sure to please the palate.
Then, after everyone is satisfied, but not yet stuffed, she ends the meal with both lemon pie and a fresh coconut cake. Dessert will be the highlight of the day for many guests, so make sure that everyone has options.
The most important aspect of an Easter meal, according to Jordan, is to add your family stamp to a culinary standard. “When the family is all together, this is the perfect time to make great-grandmother’s signature dish and reminisce about sweet memories,” said Jordan. It’s those traditions, both culinary and otherwise, that she believes build a sense of community and raise anticipation for Easter.
While Jordan opts to keep the drink menu simple with a classic iced tea, a few Easter-themed cocktails, on top of the obligatory Champagne, will help get the nostalgia juices flowing. You can’t go wrong with a classic gin and tonic — especially if you use one of the great Southern tonic syrups recommended by Southern Kitchen.
For a bit more pizzazz, try a Lemon-Gin Fizzy Punch. Perfect for Easter-time, this delightful party-starter provides an airy and light complement to the Champagne your guests are already enjoying. This spring, give our recipe a try.
Lemon-Gin Fizzy Punch
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 cup club soda
- 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup gin
- Lemon wedges, for garnish
Bring the sugar and a cup of water to a simmer in a saucepan. Stir in the honey, and let cool. Combine the sugar syrup with club soda, lemon juice and gin in a large pitcher. Serve over ice.