March 27, 2016
The blog is posting a few hours later than usual this week because I’m just back from dinner at my mother-in-law’s after flying in from Houston: ham, peas, scalloped potatoes. It was cooked up special by the kitchen, and the place was buzzing with relatives of other residents visiting for the Easter weekend. Food becomes central at a lot of holiday meals, but exploring that with the seriousness it calls for is just not my mood today. I’m thinking much more about the three (count ‘em, three) Easter Egg hunts I participated in this year with my granddaughter.
One of the three was pretty much like the ones I knew as a boy. You know the drill: cheap dye kit from the grocery, and the pre-Easter party of boiling a dozen eggs then decorating them with “the Magic Crayon”. Psst. Here’s a dirty little secret: Any crayon will keep the dye from penetrating the eggshell. I hope I’m not spoiling any little toddler’s Easter by spilling the beans about the fact that there’s nothing really magic about the crayon that comes in your Easter egg dye kit.
So then on Easter morning the Easter bunny hides the eggs you dyed around your house. If you live in Michigan, the Easter bunny is not so likely to hide them in the back yard, which is what she did for my granddaughter down in Texas. Easter bunnies are not stupid. You get up, your parents hand you a basket, and you run around excitedly finding all those eggs “left” by the Easter bunny. Even though they look rather a lot like the eggs you decorated the day before. Don’t worry yourself over that detail. The Easter bunny leaves a few surprises, too, like a chocolate bunny. The ears are supposedly extra-special tasty. Trust a food ethicist on that one.
But this Easter weekend we started with the school Easter egg hunt at my Granddaughter’s classroom on Thursday. That one yielded about a dozen plastic eggs, each with a candy treat inside. So in addition to the treats that the Easter bunny left, we are now approaching a haul comparable to that of a fair to middlin’ Halloween. Of course it was actually a lot more than a fair to middlin’ Halloween, because there was also the Saturday morning Easter egg hunt for the whole neighborhood. And I’m telling you, you’ve never seen so many $400 BOBs assembled in one place.
Now I know it’s not exactly a food item, but I’m compelled to launch a brief tangent here for the clueless reader (hey you know who I’m talking about) who has absolutely no idea what a BOB is. In point of fact, I have no idea why it’s called a BOB. Maybe it’s a trade name, but for all I would be able to attest, it’s some kind of secret code password that only millennials understand. At any rate, be assured that we’re definitely not referring to the $169 version of the large wheeled jogging stroller that you can purchase down at the Target store. No. This baby has inflatable tires and impact resistant lightweight cast aluminum wheels. And what’s more, they flex. That’s what does the trick if you are have been born (as my granddaughter has) since the start of the current decade.
So it was BOB round-up at the Saturday Easter egg hunt in The Heights. Everyone was there and they lined up against that roped-off playground littered with multi-colored plastic Easter eggs just like a bunch of land-hungry pioneers itching for the opening of Indian Territory to settler-colonials back in 1899. You may recall the scene from Cimarron, which won an Oscar back in 1931. That’s the one with Irene Dunne, though I think what I’m envisioning was from the remake in 1960 with Glenn Ford. At any rate, those toddlers-through-preteens had a gleam in their eyes not at all unlike that of homesteaders awaiting the start of the Oklahoma Land Rush. They could just see those eggs out there littering the lawn, and they knew that each one was going to be stuffed with some kind of treat ranging from the relatively disappointing Kraft caramel to the prize-winning Baby Ruth.
I’m not sure that any of this stuff should really be called food, though like beer, it is not wholly without nutritive value. The deviled eggs we had at my mother-in-law’s were better.
Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University