A week of Easter food would not be complete without some comments about Easter bread, so that is what is on our blog menu today. There are many forms of Easter Bread, and many associated traditions. Nowadays Easter bread is usually soft, sweet bread – verging on cake – enriched with butter, eggs, and milk, and often containing currants or other dried fruit. Easter Sunday seems to be the traditional day for enjoying this special loaf, but I am giving you a recipe today, because I don’t post at weekends, and also it will give you time to stock up on the ingredients, if you are of a mind to make your own this year.
One English regional tradition is described in the chapter on ‘Ancient Payments” in An historical account of the origin of the Commission appointed to inquire concerning charities in England and Wales, and, an illustration of several old customs and words which occur in the reports,by Nicholas Carlisle (1828)
“At Swerford, in the County of Oxford, the Rector supplies a small loaf for every house in the parish, on Easter Sunday, which is given after Evening Service. It is understood, that this is given on account of a bushel of Wheat, which is payable out of a field, called “Mill Close,” part of the glebe. Each house, whether inhabited by rich or poor, receives a loaf.”
There are many of these traditional doles and ancient symbolic rents in Britain, although the origins of most of them are long forgotten. I doubt if the inhabitants of Swerford still claim their bread (which would most likely have been a plain bakers loaf), but if they do, I would be pleased to have the tradition confirmed.
One yeast cake, two cups each flour and water; mix and set to rise overnight; in the morning take six cups flour, two cups milk, one and one-half cups currants, one and one-half cups raisins, one-half cup sugar, butter the size of a large hen's egg rubbed in cold, one teaspoon salt; mix and let rise until light, then mold and put in pans until light, then wet top with melted, butter, and bake one hour.
The Original Buckeye Cook Book and practical housekeeping: a compilation of choice and carefully tested recipes (1905) by Estelle Woods Wilcox.
Today is of course, Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday according to the Christian calendar. We have had stories in previous years on some of the food-associated traditions of the day (here, and here.) In Germany the day is called Gründonnerstag, or Green Thursday. It is usually said that the name derives from the symbol of a green branch which represents the journey of repentance that is the purpose of Lent, or perhaps it is intended to be a reminder of Christ’s crown of thorns. There may be another explanation however. Easter in the northern hemisphere occurs of course in Spring, and as with so many days of celebration, what we call ‘traditions’ are a blend of many centuries-worth of both religious and seasonal symbols and references – so perhaps ‘green’ simply indicates Spring. On Green Thursday it is traditional to eat green leafy salads or green soup. We had some recipes for soup in Monday’s post, if you want a traditional and healthy option for today’s dinner.
Quotation for the Day.
Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbour is a spiritual one.