Egging on the Fun with Cascarones for Easter March 27 2011
When I remember how we spent Easter as children, I remember that weeks beforehand, we'd make the trek by foot across the big international bridge that shoots over the muddy Rio Grande into Nuevo Laredo. It was less than a ten minute walk across, but as soon as we passed the Mexican authorities on the Mexican side of the bridge it was like a whole other world to me, full of bustling shoppers, women and children hawking toys or chicle on the street, honking cars crying out with banda or ranchera music, snowbirds from el norte drinking up their Coronas and tequila in the open bars that lined the streets. There were farmacias with stark flourescent lights that dispensed antibiotics or Retin-A just as easily as they gave away the Vivaporub or aceite volcanico -- which my grandmother still swears today is good for rheumas. There were the funerarias on the edge of the street that freaked me out, the shoe stores that sold good leather shoes -- but not the kind I wanted to wear to my school. The sidewalks always seemed to have their cracks filled with water, probably from the daily drenching-of-the-floor-with-water mopping that every shop did.
Sometimes I got a embroidered Mexican dress to wear for Easter, and at least once I remember my mom buying white huarachitos for me. We'd buy candy and a pinata for Easter day, and always, always, ALWAYS we'd buy a big plastic bag filled with cascarones. They were cheap, I can't remember how much but cheaper than the time it would take a mom of four to save five dozen empty egg shells, dye them, decorate them, fill them with confetti, cover the cracked part with paper mache and hide -- so the kids won't crack them over each others' heads before Easter.
So here's the thing about cascarones: they're uber fun because it keeps you on your toes all day. The way it works is you take a cascaron and sneak up to someone, or catch them off-guard, and crack it on their head and a shower of confetti comes raining down.
The cascarones got hidden along with all the other chocolate eggs and candy on Easter. On Easter Day we always got the warning to NOT EVEN THINK of cracking cascarones in the house, which sometimes made it difficult to be spontaneous in cracking it over the adults because you had to convince them to follow you outside for some unspecific reason. They usually played along. It was always the best when we celebrated at el rancho because there we were free to go crazy with the cascarones, and we'd chase each other in circles around the mesquite trees, nopales and chaparral -- and once in a while you might catch a glimpse of a bonafide south Texas bunny, una liebre. Which is to say, a jackrabbit with big long ears.
I live in a place now where no one knows what cascarones even are, so fat chance of finding a place that sells them. So reminder to self, my husband and my mother -- who does most of the breakfast cooking for the toddler: crack the egg shell gently from the top to make a small hole in them to let out the egg. Then rinse with water and let them drain and dry. Gonna work on amassing a few dozen eggs in the next few weeks so that we can have a good amount of cascarones to make at home for Easter. To me, its what makes the difference between a good Easter and a truly joyous one filled with laughs. I'm certain the toddler will go crazy with them. Will update later with my finished product.
Here's a video from the Brownsville Herald on how to make cascarones. It talks a little about the dying tradition.
Oh, and if you don't have time to make them, you can buy them Gracie's Eggs, an Etsy store!