A chef I have been working for over the holidays suggested to me that I include food history in my blog. As I thought that this was a brilliant idea here I am, making a food history page. I aim to cover the history of most things I’m making and anything that catches my attention. All of it will be in my own writing and references will be at the bottom of each entry.
To start it off I would like to talk about Hot Cross Buns, seeing as it’s practically Easter now.
Hot Cross Buns
Believed to date back to the times of Ancient Greeks hot cross buns were traditionally eaten at Spring festivals and served as an offering to the goddess of light, Eostre, which transferred to become Easter. However, it was only in Tudor times when the small spiced cake became an English custom, only to be eaten on good Friday. This was due to a London bylaw that forbid buns to be sold on any other day, apart from Christmas and at burials.
There have been many superstitions regarding the hot cross bun. Some people believed that it wouldn’t go mouldy if baked right and that it would protect the house from fire. Sailors would take them out to sea with them to prevent shipwreck. There was also a time when it was used for medicinal purposes, once finely grated and mixed with water.
The name of the bun has also evolved along with the presentation. Originally ‘hot’ was not included in the name, it was introduced in the nineteenth century due to the fact that it was generally served hot. The word bun most likely originated from the Greek word ‘boun’ meaning a ceremonial cake of circular shape made from flour and honey. As for the presentation, the cross first appeared in Poor Robin’s Amanack (1733): ‘Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs, with one or two a penny hot cross buns’, now a slightly different but popular tune sung around Easter. Nevertheless, it would have been incised with a knife rather than made of pastry, which is commonly done in present times.