I love good hot cross buns, but I don't make my own - I did try once, and it was a total disaster. This year I've struck it lucky. First my neighbour came over with a sample of the ones she'd just made with her grand-daughter. Then Ali phoned to invite me round tomorrow morning to try hers - I'll post photos later.
Like most non-religious people, I'm a stickler for tradition, and Good Friday is the only proper day to eat hot cross buns. But Easter traditions are a complex mix of Christian and pagan, male and female.
The word Easter comes from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. "Bun" comes from "boun", meaning the sacred ox sacrificed to mark the spring equinox. The little cakes eaten for this festival were stamped with the sign of ox horns. The hot cross bun is linked both with those cakes and with moon goddess worship - a round bun with the four quarters of the moon marked on it. The early Christian church built on these customs, keeping the bun and turning the symbol into a cross.
Easter eggs are another pagan symbol of rebirth cleverly adapted by Christians, but the chocolate kind were invented by smart nineteenth century French and German entrepreneurs, using a new blend of chocolate that could be shaped.
This photo comes courtesy of Makana Chocolates in Blenheim. I was down there this week to give my first talk about my food memoir, hosted by the Friends of the Library for New Zealand Book Month. Next morning I had an hour to spare before my flight, and the library's lovely Glenn Webster took me to a couple of vineyards and also to Makana. We watched them making macadamia butter toffee crunch, and got free samples.
I won't be leaving it all up to the professionals. On Monday I'll be experimenting with the classic Kiwi chocolate fudge cake, trying to produce something that looks and tastes exactly like the one my two mothers used to make, so that I can include the recipe in the collection appearing at the end of my forthcoming food memoir. More next week.