Easter Feasts around the World
around the world
No matter what your religious beliefs, Easter is also a time of irresistibly naughty treats that challenge the diet and waist line, but who can resist an excuse to eat more chocolate, buns and pies at this time of the year. Around the world, a variety of dishes commemorate the end of the Christian Lenten fast. From global preparations of ham and lamb to Italian Neapolitan pizza and Finnish pulla bread, Easter is a family affair of hearty Easter brunches and celebratory dinner feasts.
MORE THAN RELIGION
Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, was an occasion of great celebration in medieval times in the Western Christian world, not just for religious reasons, but for culinary reasons also. It was the end of Lent fasting period when only a few food dishes like preserved dried fish was permitted. Meat, eggs, cheese, milk and butter were back on the menu; fasting was finished and the single daily Lenten meal reverted back to two official daily meals. There was a practical reason for Lent in addition to its purpose of religious penance – it was the end of winter. Food was scarce, with medieval households relying on the provisions stored and preserved during autumn. By early spring, the chickens would not be laying many eggs, the majority of the cheese and salt meat will have been eaten, the only surviving animals were being kept to breed and the cows wouldn’t be giving milk yet. By the end of Lent, all the new shoots and vegetables would be coming into season, the chickens would be laying again and the animals breeding and producing milk, making for a magnificent feast at the end of the fasting. One of the dishes that would have been a sure fire hit at Eastertide was the tart. Sweet or savoury, the abundance of eggs, fresh vegetables and cheese ensured beautiful, rich, golden mounds of puffed pastries would adorn the medieval household.
RESISTENCE IS FUTILE
Hot cross buns are one such festive Easter foods that tempt even the most staunch gluten free dieter like me. It’s nearimpossible to walk past a Hot Bread Kitchen early morning as the smells of this rich, golden dough - a celebratory riot of fruit and spice - wafts across the counter. They’re a morish,
waist-challenging, sweet bun I really shouldn’t eat too of but childhood memories of a warmed hot cross bun, lathered in fresh cow’s butter, is simply too hard to resist. The rich history of hot cross buns is regrettably forgotten, along with my desire to eat a majority gluten free diet, as my brain activates uncontrollable pleasure zones of wanting to eat more. No matter how many gluten free recipes I’ve tried, traditional and modern, I’m sorry to say that there is no real substituting for using normal flour to enjoy the same fluffy softness of this Easter treat. I just need to cross the road or take another route to avoid the bakeries!
MORE THAN HOT CROSS BUNS
The Easter holiday and its cuisine on this feast day isn’t just limited to hot cross buns. All over the world, Easter food is as diverse and colorful as the different cultures that celebrate it. While crossed buns have English origins, regional seasonal ingredients in far distant countries defined other bread and bun recipes from the sweet brioche Venetian gubana filled with chocolate, raisins and alcohol; the Spanish hornazo meat pie stuffed with spicy pork chorizo sausage and hard boiled eggs; or the Cyprian Flaounes Easter bread filled with cheese and raisins, prepared on Good Friday and then eaten on Easter Sunday. One recipe, the Genoese torta pasqualina, is filled with dark leafy greens, and was traditionally made with 33 layers of dough—one for each year of Christ’s life.
Families around the world will celebrate Easter with lamb dishes, Easter egg hunts and lots of chocolate bunnies. But how did lamb, eggs and chocolate become iconic aspects of the Easter tradition? The tradition of eating lamb on Easter has its roots in early Passover observances before the birth of Christianity. According to the biblical Exodus story, the people of Egypt suffered a series of terrible plagues, including the death of all firstborn sons. Jews painted their doorposts with sacrificed lamb’s blood so that God would “pass over” their homes while carrying out the “punishment”. Accustomed to eating roast lamb on Passover, Jews who converted to Christianity continued the tradition at Easter. Christians also refer to Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” so it makes sense that lamb appears in many world recipes at the Easter table. On a less symbolic note, lamb would have been one of the first fresh meats available after a long winter with no livestock to slaughter.
SYMBOL OF REBIRTH
Eggs have been a symbol of rebirth since ancient times, but it was Mesopotamian Christians who first adopted them as an Easter food. They were also the first to dye eggs, turning them bright red to represent Christ’s blood. Eastern Europeans took egg decorating to an art form, creating delicate wax relief designs in the shells to give to friends and family members. In the United States and Britain, eggs are dyed and used for hunts and rolls. As egg decorating grew more popular, dishes like deviled eggs and hardboiled eggs became associated with Easter as a way to avoid wasting valuable food.
EASTER EGGS AND RABBITS
The custom of giving candy and chocolate for Easter, meanwhile, first appeared in the Victorian age. New technology, developed by the famous Cadbury factory in England, allowed manufacturers to create hollow sculptures made of chocolate, instead of painstakingly applying layer after layer of chocolate to individual molds as they had before. These new processes meant that higher-quality chocolate were available for a cheaper price, and the market quickly boomed. By 1893 the Cadbury company alone offered a whopping 19 different product lines for the Easter market including all sizes of eggs as a tasty symbol of rebirth, and the bunny rabbit to symbolize fertility.
The Roman neopolitan pizza was a simple food served around Easter in Italy
Hot Cross Pudding - a modern take on the Easter bun
Spanish Easter hornazo bread is stuffed with chorizo sausage and egg