Easter Contrition

Dreamstime mortified dog
I am more embarrassed than this dog who was dressed as the Easter Bunny for a stock photo.

A long time ago, I said some shameful and judgemental things.

Okay, it was yesterday, and the thing I said was that hot cross buns should be made to a strictly traditional recipe. Because the universe has a habit of instantly smiting me whenever I take a judgemental turn, on Good Friday I made hot cross buns with toffee topping, by accident. Let me explain.

At the moment, we’re neck-deep in Konmari – the Japanese art of getting rid of all you junk so your place doesn’t look like something off Hoarders any more. Marie Kondo, the expert behind Konmari, suggests to get it all done in six months. That gives me two and half more weeks to find a loving new home for all of my unwanted possessions. Which turns out to be most of them. So, a pretty big task.

That’s why I found myself arranging to sell a large bookshelf to a furniture dealer on Good Friday morning. The hot cross buns were on the oven and the glaze was on the stove, when a cheerful middle-aged woman with in a tiny van turned up to collect the shelf. She loaded it up like the professional she was, and I managed to sell her an antique magazine stand in the process. So far so good.

As she was leaving, my parents turned up to eat the buns. I took a momemt to mentally switch gears from “E-commerce” to “Special family time”. Suddenly, I was beset by the feeling that I’d forgotten something. Something important. Then I smelled caramael.

Racing over to the stove, I saw my sticky bun glaze was now very sticky indeed. It was, in fact, toffee. Panicking, I drizzled it over the buns, and apologetically took them to the table. But instead of disappointment, I was greeted with excitement and admiration for my innovation.

My mind flew to yesterday’s post where I’d lambasted anyone who would dare to add so much as a choc chip to this time honoured dish. And what had I made – toffee hot cross buns!

It got me thinking about all the reasons people might deviate from tradition.

There might be people who are intolerant to one or more of the main ingredients – yeast, lactose and gluten are all common allergens. There may be others for whom the traditional bun is tied up in terrible childhood memories, but adding some banana makes it just different enough. Perhaps you’re part of a marginalised community and you don’t feel included in this particular tradition.

Maybe you were just selling some furniture at the wrong time.

My lesson this Easter: food traditions beong to everyone. That means that everyone is free to use them how they are able to, and how they like.

Cross about Buns

Launcestron Advertiser 23 Mar
Advertising (1837, March 23). Launceston Advertiser (Tas. : 1829 – 1846), , p. 2. Retrieved March 24, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article84754575

I try to be non-judgmental. I try to live and let live. But on the issue of hot cross buns I can’t hold back any longer.

A hot cross bun is made with a yeast dough and raisins, and is decorated with a cross. That’s right, raisins and yeast. Not choc-chips, as is particularly popular with the chain Baker’s Delight here in Australia. Not self-raising flour, which makes a scone, not a bun. And most certainly not craisins. Never craisins.

Sydney Gazette 26 Mar 1842 p3
Insolvency Court. (1842, March 26). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), , p. 3. Retrieved March 24, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2556084


Then there is this year’s trend for the Franken-buns. My Facebook feed is currently overrun with loaf/bun hybrids. Supermarket chain Coles posted a recipe for Hot Cross Bun-ana Bread and were subsequently overwhelmed by requests to stock the darn stuff. Then there is the monstrous Bun and Butter Skillet Pudding. Am I insane to think that a hot cross bun should, at the very least, be a bun?

If you want a loaf with raisins and spice then what you’re searching for is a Seed Cake, the most popular sweet loaf in the Victorian Era. Here is a link to Mrs Beeton’s Recipe for Seed Cake. You’re welcome.

Don’t even get me started on hot cross buns in February. Hot Cross buns are for good Friday. If you’re confused about how the whole custom works, allow this 1836 edition of The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser to explain:

Yesterday being Good Friday, Banks, Public Offices, and Shops, were closed, and the various Churches and Chapels opened for sacred Worship. Hot cross buns were not forgotten, and as in merry England aforetime, the well known cry, “One a penny buns, two a penny buns – one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns, all hot,” was to be heard at an early hour.

PORT PHILIP. (1836, April 2). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), , p. 2. Retrieved March 24, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2203559

There is a meme going around that says simply: “Words mean things”. Seasonal dishes are a language unto themselves. If we use then out of place, we erode that language until the dishes just become novelty items or marketing tools.

Hot Cross buns, on Good Friday, mean things. Regardless of your religious faith, making or eating these little yeast buns on a Friday in March or April transforms you into part of a living tradition that goes back at least to 1733. Isn’t that worth finding another sweet treat to eat on the other 364 days of the year?