Thursday, 24 March 2016

One a penny, two a penny.

A friend of mine has had a quite lengthy correspondence going on on social media on the subject of hot cross buns. It began with someone discovering that it is possible to buy hot cross buns containing chocolate chips. Predictably, traditionalists proclaimed their horror at such a thing. One suggested that there was no need for such a thing as you can just spread traditional hot cross buns with Nutella. Personally, I agree with the traditional purists who say that hot cross buns should simply contain dried fruit - raisins, sultanas and such - and be just a little spicy. 

Here comes the rhyme: 

Hot cross buns! 
Hot cross buns! 
one a penny, two a penny, 
Hot cross buns! 

If you have no daughters, 
give them to your sons. 
One a penny two a penny, 
Hot cross buns! 

According to Wikipedia, 

"The earliest record of the rhyme is in Christmas Box, published in London in 1798. However, there are earlier references to the rhyme as a street cry in London, for example in Poor Robin's Almanack for 1733, which noted: 

"Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs 
With one or two a penny hot cross buns." " 

I tried to find out why you should give hot cross buns to your daughters and, only failing that, to your sons. However, although I could find numerous recipes, no source gave me any further explanation! 

Hot cross buns (which my crazy typing skills keep converting into "hot cross nuns", an interesting concept!) are among the things that trigger my Proustian madeleine moment. One of my memories of childhood is going to church on Good Friday morning and returning home to find the house smelling of the buns that my mother had been warming up in the oven. Why did she not also go to church? Looking after my younger siblings? Or simply out of culinary devotion? 

Of course, back then you only had hot cross buns on Good Friday, hence the name! Now you can buy them from early January. This fact led to further social media furore, as you can imagine. The added-chocolate enthusiasts seemed unaware of the Easter connection but the commentators put them right. Purists wanted to go back to the hot cross buns of my childhood. Oddly enough, the hot cross buns, like the chocolate eggs disappear from the supermarket shelves almost immediately after Easter. Curious! Cadbury's mini-eggs also become scarce but their creme eggs seem to carry on throughout the year. Once again, curious! 

Easter eggs have been creating a bit of a furore as well. or at least their labelling. Some people have been accusing the chocolate companies who make the eggs of changing the labelling on many of their products, removing the word Easter, apparently to avoid giving offence to people of other religions. This, they claim, is in line with the move to wish people Happy Holidays instead of Happy Christmas. I remain unconvinced. In fact, I find the theory that the chocolate egg men have opted to omit Easter from their labelling in order to be able to sell Easter eggs all year round much more believable. Especially as in recent years there has been a huge increase in the production and sale of Easter cards, often marketed as "gift pouches" so that you can give your loved ones money as well as chocolate. Capitalism beats religion hands down! 

The whole chocolate egg thing becomes very iffy when you come across the theories that they relate to pre-Christian pagan fertility rites. 

Hmm, I wonder where the traditionalists stand on that one.

No comments:

Post a Comment