Well, Easter is finally almost upon us – and with it a slew of bank holidays which seem to have caught Mother Nature on the hop given the current expectation of hot and sunny weather throughout (either that, or I have inadvertently strayed into a parallel universe which whilst similar to my traditional home does seem to be exhibiting some striking differences).
This bunching of bank holidays, like London buses, has generated a couple of news stories about the timing of Easter. The rather variable nature of the timing of the Easter bank holidays was apparently addressed way back in 1928 (before even my time). The Easter Act 1928 will set Easter to be “the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April” once it is activated – rather than its current dependence on the full moon. Presumably, as today, those wishing to celebrate the various Christian events linked to the timing of Easter may continue to use a lunar calendar (rather than the official, UK Easter) – the exact choice of Easter date going back to the ancient split between the churches of Rome and Byzantium (which could yield three Easters each year in this country, with possibly negative consequences for the current obesity epidemic and the well-being of the Easter bunny).
I’ve always found Easter a curious festival – a strange admixture of Aztec (the chocolate) and Christian/fertility (the egg) symbols, coupled with the frankly Pagan lunar timing. In fact, chocolate goes back well before the Aztecs – with cocoa used for beverages by the Mokaya as much as 4000 years ago (and still used by the Fish today – though I don’t normally mix it with chilli at bedtime). Chocolate in bar (or, indeed egg) form had to await the conquistadors and then the industrial revolution. I suppose that prior to the invention of the Minstrel and/or the Frigidaire, bar chocolate would have been rather impractical in the heat of the Mexican jungle (even if you started with a bar, you’d be back to a drink pretty smartly).
The other Easter timing news comes from my own local university, where a Professor Colin Humphries has discovered, after extensive research, that the Last Supper was on a Wednesday (and not as previously believed, a Thursday). I must admit I did wonder why this mattered given the fact that Easter can move by a whole 4 weeks, a one day shift in one of its events didn’t seem all that significant. Perhaps, I mused, the Good Lord was an Orange mobile customer and had taken the disciples to the flicks using their 2-for-1 deal and had been able to fund the meal out of the money he’d saved – which clearly wouldn’t have worked on a Thursday (or in the 1st Century AD – well, not without a previously undocumented miracle or two). But no, apparently this research was designed to tackle an important issue in the biblical narrative where the gospels disagree about the timing of the Last Supper and the sheer number of events which took place between it and Good Friday (though, if anyone is going to have good time management skills one feels it should be the Son of God). The good Professor Humphries (who I like to imagine in a red-and-white striped top, and having a tendency to milk-based kleptomania) likes to think that his work will finally lead to the implementation of the 1928 Act and the fixing of the date for Easter.
But what, I hear the few of you to have made it this far whimpering, does this have to do with the title? Well, let me tell you my chickabiddies…
I am pretty agnostic and have no great fondness of chocolate eggs, so Easter is of little import to me – but for one thing, the hot cross bun (HXB – more St Andrew than JC, I suppose). I do rather love a hot cross bun, but have always struggled to make a decent bun of my own, leaving me reliant on the kindess of strangers (or more often, dearest mater) or the local bakery. However, I buy very little (pre-?)prepared food (can you pre-prepare? Or is this just before, before paring? I do have a paring knife – but it only helps within a fairly limited scope of food production…) preferring to create it myself from the stuff of chaos – or basic ingredients, as the less poetic authors of my various recipe books would have it. So, today I have once again attempted to make hot cross buns – well, if I’m honest they are only hot buns (I’m too lazy/agnostic to bother with the cross) – this time employing my breadmaker (a machine, rather than a member of my household staff) to prepare the dough and cutting out the need to knead by hand (and with it, one possible mode of failure and dough under the fingernails). I do have to form the buns and leave them to prove (to be honest, they didn’t even manage the simplest of lemmas) which took massively longer than suggested at a rather higher temperature and then bake them (which took rather less time than the instructions led me to believe).
This process took place whilst I have been writing this post, and I have now sampled a few of my hard-wrought wares. I can pronounce them delicious and an almost total success – or they are when fresh; they may only be fit for use as artillery rounds by the morning (assuming any survive that long!).
The HXB is fully and safely defused!