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Don't Cross Buns

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Every holiday and religious celebration comes with a menagerie of delights for foodies, and even though Easter is only just approaching, supermarket shelves have been packed full of spiced hot cross buns and Cadbury Mini Eggs for months - and in some cases, they never stopped.

But with one food fest seamlessly running into another, when did 'seasonal' cakes, buns, and treats start to be eaten all year round?

Christmas and Easter goodies seem to be appearing earlier and earlier in our shops, with nothing preventing us from eating them at the wrong time of year. Granted, these treats, unlike seasonal fruits and vegetables, don't carry the environmental issues and air miles, but surely it just feels wrong to break the traditional dates for eating such foods?

My favourite times of the year are mostly defined by food, and we had many rules about eating them in our house; no mince pies before 1 December, Crème Eggs only at Easter, and a whole Konditor & Cook curly whirly cake reserved for birthdays. But even I have to admit that, for the first time, I broke the mince pie rule last Christmas, much to the horror of my family, caving in at the end of November.

But if the period in which we eat such foods were to be extended, surely that takes some of the pleasure out of them. If you rounded off your weekly roast dinner with a Christmas pudding or a raspberry trifle, they would be somewhat of a let down on the big day.

Is it that we no longer have the self-restraint to leave hot cross buns on the shelves in January? Or are we just becoming less strict than, say, our grandparents' generation, when it comes to eating those indulgent holiday treats out of season?

And then we have the supermarkets and producers, all vying for the top Easter treats spots, trying to differentiate themselves from one another by coming up with Willy Wonka-style creations and moving further and further away from the traditional recipes, with varying levels of success.

The latest offering from Heston Blumenthal and Waitrose, the Earl Grey Tea and Mandarin Hot Cross Bun, is not as odd as it sounds. Quite refreshing, tasty and with somewhat industrial sized infused fruits, the supermarket is clearly hoping for a repeat success of his Hidden Orange Christmas pudding, having ordered more of the buns than their most popular range last year. Elsewhere Harrod's have opted for the Gruyere and Chive hot cross bun. So far disconnected from the traditional recipe, this savoury herb-studded bread surely falls into the 'bap' category, and, call me old fashioned, but no amount of salty, oozy gruyere will convince me that this should grace the Easter table.

So, will you be selecting your hot cross buns and Easter eggs for the first time this week? Or have you already waded into the buns months ago? And, which will you be going for? Classic? Apple? Seeded? Savoury? Me, I shall be sticking with tradition and tucking into the most old fashioned of hot cross buns this Easter weekend. Probably from London bakers Gail's or Ottolenghi - my favourite offerings from this year's batch.

Around the Web

BBC - Food - Recipes : Hot cross buns

Easter taste test: hot cross buns | Life and style | guardian.co.uk

Hot cross bun - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Good Friday Traditions in Great Britain 2011

British 'hot cross bun' nuns who saved Italian Jews from Nazis move ...

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