When Someone Takes Your Paschal Cheese


Let me tell you about Paschal Cheese. Paschal cheese is a special, sweet dish that originated in Russia and made its way to the United States and I thank God it did.

Paschal cheese is made of cream, eggs, butter, confectioners sugar, candied citron, chopped almonds, golden raisins, vanilla, and farmers cheese. It goes into a special mold where it comes out creamy and delicious, with the Orthodox cross molded into the sides. It is indescribably delicious.

I discovered this cheese at my first Pascha. It was four in the morning and I took one bite and thought it was a bite of heaven. It is creamy goodness full of ingredients you are encouraged to abstain from during Lent. It is the opposite of Lent – indulgence, extravagance, and luxury as compared to moderation, abstinence, and simplicity.

I never make this Paschal cheese because I have discovered that in a church full of Russian immigrants (and an American chef who is incredible) there is no need. Why try to duplicate what someone else already does so well? But at the end of our early morning feast I always try to take a container home, excited to eat it for the next two weeks.

This year was no exception. There was the Paschal cheese in the center table. One large one with a decorated cross on the top and several smaller molds surrounding it. A beautiful centerpiece for the table. I pushed my way through the jubilant crowd of hungry Orthodox Christians until I got to the table. And I loaded a piece of kulich, a sweet yeast bread that is more like a cake, with the cheese. So good.  Put it this way – to describe how good it is you need a thesaurus with a hundred options.

When it came time to head home I had my two take away boxes — one of them full of the cheese and kulich. There were many of us filling take away boxes with delicious foods that we hadn’t eaten for seven weeks.

We drove over the Charles River as the sun was coming up, its early morning glow reflected off the tall buildings in Boston that we see from the bridge. We arrived home tired but euphoric – it had been an amazing celebration and it was now time to sleep. Except first I would look at my Paschal cheese before putting it into the refrigerator.

I looked in the first take out box. Nothing. Oh right – that’s because I put it into the other take out box. As I peeked in I couldn’t believe what I saw.

There was no Paschal cheese. Since all the take out boxes looked the same, someone had taken my Paschal cheese and I was left with a poor substitute. I couldn’t believe it! No Paschal cheese??? I need my Paschal cheese. It’s the only thing I really wanted from that table that was laden with food. My husband had purposely not taken any, knowing that I would fill a take out box with this sweet, creamy goodness.

No Paschal cheese. And oh how I wanted that Paschal cheese. 

Other folks would probably just let it be, but because I am who I am I pondered this. How much I had looked forward to this dish, how disappointed I was that I ended up without it. Why was I so disappointed? It’s just a yummy food – and the truth is I don’t need it at all.

But I wanted it! And it was special! And it was tradition! 

It’s Monday morning and I can’t help thinking that life is full of moments of Paschal cheese where what we long for, what we want more than anything is not available. And usually it’s way bigger than Paschal cheese. We make ourselves crazy trying to get what is unavailable. Or we feel someone took our take away boxes. We try so hard to box up what we love, what we long for, and someone accidentally exchanges our takeout boxes for theirs.

All the while God gently but persistently urges us that if we trust and rest in Him, we will have enough. He will enter those longings and slowly, steadily re-shape them, until we realize that in Him we have what we wanted for all along. 

Photo Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/russia-golden-ring-historically-704855/

15 thoughts on “When Someone Takes Your Paschal Cheese

  1. Oh how I miss hearing your stories in person, Marilyn! I can just picture you recounting your story with such passion! It put a smile on my face and, as always, got to the heart of the matter. Thanks for the insight!


  2. Very awesome reflection. There are so many things in life this can relate to, and yes, I need to come back to “God is way more than enough”.


  3. I remember a few years ago when we were travelling in a city that had Ethiopian restaurants, and I desperately longed to go to one. My mouth was watering on the day we were planning to go. But due to getting lost, traffic jams, etc., we didn’t get there, and instead ended up getting cold pizza. We opened the box, and the cheese was stuck to the lid. That did it for me–I went off and sulked like a small child! Amazing how certain foods can do that to us. It helps me understand the Israelites in the wilderness better, and the Scripture that refers to “their god is their stomach”. This is a temptation common to man (or woman!)


    1. yes yes yes! I relate so much with this comment including the sulking like a small child. Hard to admit but these food expectations do that – and it’s so not good. Thanks for getting this so well.


  4. I never had my Paschal cheese taken from me. However, I know the crushing feelings of disappointment when something we long is not rewarded with the desired object. I recall buying an inexpensive set of Christmas dishes in Honduras. I had never had a set of Christmas dishes before. When I opened the box, one cup was cracked. There would no no refund or exchange – I knew the store didn’t offer that. That wasn’t the culture there. I thought I had inspected each piece, but apparently I failed to see the crack in one cup. Every year when I used those cups, saucers and plates, I smiled a bittersweet smile. I knew Christmas was more than cups and saucers, but I did want a a perfect set! Onward, Marilyn. Cheese will come!


  5. That’s lovely.  I definitely have Paschal cheese for you!

    From: Communicating.Across.Boundaries To: ptishel@yahoo.com Sent: Monday, April 13, 2015 8:20 AM Subject: [New post] When Someone Takes Your Paschal Cheese #yiv1734830392 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv1734830392 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv1734830392 a.yiv1734830392primaryactionlink:link, #yiv1734830392 a.yiv1734830392primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv1734830392 a.yiv1734830392primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv1734830392 a.yiv1734830392primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv1734830392 WordPress.com | Marilyn posted: “Let me tell you about Paschal Cheese. Paschal cheese is a special, sweet dish that originated in Russia and made its way to the United States and I thank God it did.Paschal cheese is made of cream, eggs, butter, confectioners sugar, candied citron” | |


  6. Oh, Marilyn! This is how I feel when I’ve been invited out for gumbo at a friend’s home. I am so happy to accept and enjoy the hospitality but I have to make a pot the very next day because the leftovers are the best part. I’m so sorry about your Paschal cheese! I don’t suppose there’s any place you could buy some? I know it won’t be the same, but still. Any Paschal cheese is probably better than no Paschal cheese.


    1. Gumbo is definitely better the next day. I am not looking forward to the day when my mom stops making gumbo. Nothing can compare to her gumbo on Christmas evening, as she makes it every Christmas eve.


    2. Love both your and Laurie’s responses! I have such a happy ending to my story. I have a full container of Paschal cheese in my refrigerator. Turns out there was plenty left over in the church refrigerator. I appreciate the comments and understaning from this post so much! There is something about food when our expectations are not met.


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