Torrijas, Paper Plates, and Side Dishes {Lessons from Easter}

bilingual parenting bilingualism espanolita easter pascua food culture spain


As I reflect today on the significance of Easter and its connection to bilingual parenting (yes, trust me on this one), allow me to once again make an analogy to food and sharing it with others.

April 5, 2015 marked the first Easter in our eleven years of marriage that D. and I started our own family tradition. In the past, we’d always traveled to my parents’ house for the Kratovil lunch of honey-baked ham and its accompanying deviled eggs, potato salad, and apple pie. “Very American, very American,” my mom always used to say.

This year, however, D. and I decided to host an Easter lunch for friends and family, both American and Spanish. Representing the United States, we’d have the traditional honey-baked ham and coleslaw, as well as jello salad, and my all-time favorite, Pineapple Upside Down Cake.  From Spain, las torrijas (similar to French Toast) and huevos rellenos (tuna-stuffed hardboiled eggs).

I had it all planned out, from the food to the seating arrangements to the table linens (I love hosting meals).

Well, the days leading up to and on Easter Sunday reminded me, once again, of the importance of community support in bilingual parenting. It is a marathon, not a sprint, and we can’t do it alone. (If you’ve been following the blog, you know that I write a lot on this topic. You can read more about it here and here.)

These are the three moments this Easter that reminded me I need other people in raising my daughter bilingually:

Las Torrijas –


“If I can make a roscón de Reyes, then I can make torrijas,” I boasted to myself the week leading up to Easter. Turns out fried bread a la española is more complicated than I had thought.

‘Así no se hacen las torrijas’ (“That’s not how you make torrijas.”) my husband, D., announced as he looked over my shoulder at the chunks of bread idling in half an inch of hot olive oil in the frying pan.

“That’s not how they’re supposed to look,” he added, taking the spatula from my hand and scooting a bit closer to the stove. I laughed and obliged him (it was 10:30 the night before Easter and I was tired). As I watched him soak the bread in the milk and egg, I found myself relieved, not only relieved that I didn’t have to stand there waiting for the bread to fry, but relieved that it wasn’t just me in this whole raising-our-daughter-in-two-languages-and-two-cultures thing. And, thankful. Thankful for the reminder that it’s okay to make mistakes and to ask for help, both in cooking and in parenting.

Paper plates –

“You’re going to use paper plates, aren’t you?” my mother asked me when I told her that I’d invited twelve people (to squeeze into our two-bedroom apartment) to Easter lunch. “Absolutely not!” I retorted, offended she had even asked. “It’s Easter. I’m going all out! I’m planning on polishing Granny’s silver and using the vintage Brandenburg lace napkins that are sitting pressed in my closet.”

Well, guess who had second thoughts laying in bed at 3 am Easter Eve and who subsequently called her mom early Easter morning to ask for paper plates and utensils? You guessed it. And, I’m so glad I did.

Because the time I would have spent loading the dishwasher was spent walking and chatting (for two hours) after lunch in the park with our new friends from Valencia, Spain. It was time invested in building amistades.

Side Dishes –

pineapple upside down cake espanolita culture easter spain america

“Can we bring anything, a side dish perhaps? That will make things easier on you,” volunteered my friend, L., in her R.S.V.P. to our lunch invitation. Before I hit “reply,” assuring her I had it all covered, I paused and decided to consult with D., who encouraged me to reconsider, “Why do you need to make everything yourself?” So, I wrote to L., and took her up on her offer.

Later that week: “Can I make something?” offered S., my new friend from Valencia, when I asked her to join us for Easter lunch. Again, I almost responded with a boastful no, but caught myself when she offered to prepare her grandmother’s huevos rellenos (“stuffed eggs”). She wasn’t just offering to provide food, but more importantly, she was asking to participate in the meal and to represent her culture on what was also for her a special day.

While I had originally convinced myself that my lunch guests shouldn’t have to lift a finger, I came to understand that their bringing food transformed them from guests at a luncheon to friends sharing a meal. They were no longer spectators, but rather participants.

Bilingual Parenting is the same. It isn’t the final product – a polished sit-down luncheon with silver and linen napkins, or a perfectly fluent child because of your, and only your, efforts – that matters. What matters is the process and the bumps along the way.

Just as D. corrected my torrijas technique, so too should we be open to correction and remember that, as parents, we are also learning alongside our children.

Just as the use of paper plates reduced my workload and allowed me to spend time with friends, so too should we welcome opportunities to invest in relationships with others. The best and richest language-learning opportunities come not from an iPad app or a DVD, but from authentic and meaningful relationships.

And, just like I needed the help of friends in pulling off a successful Easter lunch, so too do we need others to support us as we navigate the sometimes difficult – but always fun! – journey through bilingual parenting.

Oh, that Pineapple Upside Down Cake? As always, I credit my inspiration to The Pioneer Woman. (Make sure you bake it in a cast iron skillet!)

Finally, in case you were wondering, here is the recipe for torrijas that I used, sent to me by my friend Mónica, by way of Receta Torrijas.

Ingredientes:– 750 gr. de pan
– 1 litro de leche
– 100 gr. de azúcar
– 2 Ramas de canela
– Aceite de oliva
– 2 Huevos batidos
– Canela en polvo y azúcar
Para preparar la tradicional receta de Torrijas lo primero que necesitamos es pan para torrijas, como segunda opción tenemos usar pan del día anterior, lo cortamos en rebanadas de un centímetro de grosor más o menos.Acto seguido hay que poner a hervir la leche, junto con las ramas de canela y el azúcar. Después dejamos enfriar y vamos a usar esta leche para empapar todas las rebanadas de pan.Una vez empapadas, pasaremos cada una de estas rebanadas por el huevo batido (en un plato) para después freirlas en una buena sartén con abundante aceite de oliva.Por ultimo, cuando las torrijas estén bien fritas, las secamos en papel secante para quitarles los excesos de aceite de oliva, le espolvoreamos o pasamos por una mezcla de canela y azúcar, y ya tenemos lista esta fabulosa receta de Torrijas.
How did you celebrate Easter? I’d love to hear from you!

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