Move Over Easter Ham, There’s a New Main Dish in Town
As Easter approaches, the sad ball in my belly just seems to grow and grow. People always talk about spending time with the living because once they're gone, it's too late. I've even said those words to others hundreds of times, but I am a hypocrite and my words taste like crow in my mouth.
My grandpa was the most influential man in my life and next to my husband, he was the most loved as well. When my birth father decided I didn't matter enough to love, my Pop took me under his wing and raised me as if I were his own daughter. And to repay him, I grew up and didn't spend as much time with him when he was alive as I could and should have.
The last time that my entire immediate family was together for Easter was in 2011. That's right, 12 years ago was the last time that my parents, grandparents, six siblings, and I were all in the same place at the same time for a holiday together.
Easter of 2011 was special because my grandparents, who lived many states away, were visiting and it was a rare treat to spend a holiday with them as an adult (we always shared holidays together as kids). I drove up from near Philly and we had a really nice time together as a family. That time together is one I'll never forget, not only because we were all together, but because of Pop's chop suey.
I know this might seem sexist in today's world, but my great-grandpa stumbled on a chop suey recipe some 60-plus years ago and decided it sounded easy enough that he could make it and he did and the recipe became a way for the men to cook for the kids when their wives weren't able to. The recipe has been tweaked through the years and handed down to all of the men in my family.
By the time I was thirty and still unmarried, I wondered if I would ever have someone to make Pop's chop suey for me. So, I set out to try to recreate the recipe myself because gosh darn it, I wasn't going to be denied Pop's chop suey.
I kept the fact that I'd pretty much figured out Pop's recipe a secret for nearly a decade but in the year before he died, I fessed up to Pop and told him what I'd figured out. Pop was impressed and in turn, sent me his top-secret recipe and asked me to share it with my husband. Jay and I were married for six years before my grandpa died and they only met once. Pop's rule was that the recipe had to be taught to the person it was being handed down to and since chop suey making wasn't on the agenda when he met my husband, Jay was never taught.
My Pop died on November 1, 2020, and his death emotionally impacted me in huge ways. I think all of the holidays I missed out on spending with him because I was too concerned about taking time off from my job. And now, while I'll get to walk with Pop again one day in heaven, I will never share another Easter here on earth with him or have another opportunity for him to lovingly make me his special chop suey.
After my grandfather died, my incredible husband suggested we break away from the way we've traditionally celebrated Easter and start our own tradition. We don't sit down to ham and candied yam for Easter in my house. Instead, we sit around the table eating Pop's chop suey, a dish my husband and I make together with the help of our son.