Though I have convinced myself that the Jamaican Easter bun is descended from the British Hot-cross bun, I have been hard- pressed to find anything but circumstantial evidence, that would probably not stand up too well in a court of historically correct cuisine. I have also wondered how it is that we have come to serve it with that orange-colored cheese in the round can, from New Zealand of all places! What an intriguing mix, this trans-Atlantic/ trans-Caribbean world of the Americas!
I stumbled on it quite by surprise- my new Easter bun recipe. Searching through a healthy meals cookbook, I looked across the page from my ‘Millet in the Skillet’ project and saw the recipe titled ‘Brown Bread’. Back home that was the name for bread made with whole wheat flour, ‘brown’ because of the flecks of wheat bran included. My new discovery was made ‘brown’ however by a more culturally relevant ingredient, molasses. Additional sweetening came not from good old brown sugar but from honey! So much for cultural relevance!
As this recipe struggled on to win its place in my repertoire of culturally relevant cuisine for Jamericans, I was hit by an old favorite which I had not met before being transplanted into American Mid-West homeschooling life, buttermilk. Another cultural flare-up occurred as I tried to decide on fruit to include; raisins, ‘yes’ but then a new and now dearly loved North-American ‘sub’ volunteered unabashed, knowing it was always welcome in my kitchen, craisins- sweetened, dried cranberries.
Pressing on with this new ‘bridge’ recipe, I realized I had yet another cultural struggle on my hands. The Easter bun recipe in vogue, just before I left JA, was bun made with stout, Dragon stout. But I have learned how to quit when I’m ahead when it comes to being purist in my hunt for Jamaican ingredients; so I had settled for Guinness stout when I decided to try this cultural confection at home in my Jamerican kitchen last Easter. I could not recall last Easter’s outcome so I had determined to try again this year despite the nay-saying of my ‘tea totaling’ son. Well, he won out due to my uncertainty about how baking soda would react with the fermenting factors in Stout draughts, so I was denied Irish input to what was fast becoming a United Nations event in my kitchen-what with crushed walnuts and almonds joining the party!
Amazingly, the result was very ‘Jamaican-Easter-Bun- ny’ in every sense! (Pun intended! No rabbits indigenous to JA at all!) The taste, texture and appearance were comparable to that from any kitchen worth the moniker ‘Jamaican’.I’ve proudly presented it to family and friends as such as I’ve entertained this Easter season; though I must admit to a slight twinge of conscience whenever I did so. Well, it looked, smelled and tasted like a duck…! a bun, that is!
Whichever, it served its purpose: it drew people together in a language which touched us all at the level of our senses, identity and emotions providing a door to conscious engagement with things ultimately most meaningful…that primary moniker – Easter? Forget all the purist brouhaha about ancient Spring rites etc. Today the term connects us to rememberance of the Ultimate love act that bridged the deepest relational gap ever ( the one between God and man ) : the Atoning death of Jesus the Christ and His glorious resurrection! You can pass on my new bun, but don’t miss that Cross or that Sunrise! Christ has died! Christ is Risen! Christ will come again!