Easter Cuisine – what’s the meaning behind…

By Sharon Brewer

Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the commencement of Lent and a time when many people choose to fast from food. Traditionally, pancakes were made to use up excess butter, eggs, cheese and fat before the fasting period began.

These days our diets comprise a much wider range of foods. However, pancakes are a symbolic reminder that we are entering into the season of Lent.

Hot Cross Buns

A little research on the history of hot cross buns indicates that we aren’t exactly sure of when and where they entered our cuisine. It is reported that archaeologists have found small loaves buried in volcanic ash that have
the markings of a cross on them. It was also traditional, from at least the 1300s to mark a new loaf with the sign of a cross in order to bless it and thank God for it. Historical records from about the same time mention buns with either icing or baked on crosses appearing in England, Ireland and Europe that were eaten at Christmas and Lent/Easter.

In modern times they are a regular shelf item to be found in supermarkets soon after Christmas (there were reported sightings of buns being sold on Boxing Day this year!). I love hot cross buns – and I don’t mind if they take out the fruit or add chocolate chips – just don’t lose the cross! It’s one of the few subtle reminders in our secular society of the meaning of Easter.

As an aside, when I asked my 16 year old why we have hot cross buns, he replied, because they have a cross, and they rise!

Easter Eggs

If there is one item that symbolises Easter in our society, it is the Easter egg. From a religious perspective the egg represents new life. That is, just as a chick breaks through the eggshell into new life, so did Christ as he rose from death, and moved from the tomb into new life. The symbolism is probably richer in the Northern Hemisphere as Easter occurs in springtime.