Hot Cross Bun

Hot Cross Bun; the traditional sweet treat when celebrating Easter.

Hot Cross Buns

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.

What a daft nursey rhyme!

Economically unsound. Sexist. No account for families with both daughters and sons.

But we all know that few nursery rhymes are logical.

We fill our children's heads with fairy tales, we tell them that Santa Claus exists, that Goldilocks is a good girl for stealing the bears' porridge, and then complain if they tell lies and steal!

Yet fairy tales are essential for child development, say child psychologists. Fairy tales stretch a child's imagination, teach morals and lessons, and show that love and kindness overcome wickedness.

However, when the child gets older and questions why hot cross buns cost one a penny AND two a penny, then it's time to move on, give them an apron and show them how to bake the buns.

Save the best for the last

Vanessa Williams' "Save the Best for Last", a sentimental ballad with no climax. Some criticise the melody as being dreary. Did its title help it become Song of the Year?

Listen to it on YouTube

The tastiest part of a hot cross bun is the cross on the top. It contains more spices and is enhanced by the apricot jam glaze that covers the top of the bun. People tend to save the best bit to the end.

Indeed, the entire bun is the "best bit" for those who follow Lent according to tradition. For the six-week Lent period before Easter, buns are traditionally made without dairy products. From midday of Good Friday, Lent comes to and end and people celebrate with the sweet and toasted hot cross buns. The cross and the spices, of course, symbolise the crucifixion of Jesus, and the spices used during the cleansing and embalming of his body.

Psychologists have lots of theories on why fairy tales are good for children, but there's a surprising lack of consensus on why we save the best to the last:

  • Saving the best to the last doesn't make sense

    My big sister always swiped the cherry from my plate, smirking with a "Don't you want that?" (She did that for years, until I learned the defending tactic of jabbing my fork in her hand.)

    Our taste buds are sharper for the first few bites, so we should enjoy the tastier bits before our taste buds are polluted with mundane food.

  • Saving the best to the last makes perfect sense

    The grand finalé of Beethoven's Ninth (a bit different from Vanessa Williams), the final BANG! of the firework display, the climax of reaching the top of the mountain. Successful public speakers deliver a powerful ending to send the audience away fired with enthusiasm.

    When we were children, if our parents allowed us to fill up with the sweets that we enjoyed, at the expense of starting with the more nutritious vegetables, our health would have suffered. Then we found the pleasure of eating was the anticipation of the rewarding dessert. The moment is short-lived; the pleasurable eagerness to reach it lasts longer.

It might be a basic animal instinct to go for tasty food first, but we (or most of us) have evolved from such basic animal instincts and can rationalise what makes healthy sense. Yet there's evidence that until relatively recently, humans ate the best first.

In John 2:1-11 we read of the custom of serving the best wine first. This might have been because the guests could appreciate the best wine before they became too drunk to appreciate it later.

The allegory of this first miracle of Jesus is that darkness precedes the dawn.

There were six empty water pots, one short of seven, the number of days in the Creation. And Jesus said to his mother that his time had not come. All is revealed then in John 15:1 when Jesus said that he was the true vine. The best is still to come.

So enjoy your hot cross buns. And when you get to the best bit, remember why the cross is the best bit.


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