Hot Cross Buns

Image credit CJorsch

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!

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
If you haven’t got a penny
A ha’penny will do.
If you haven’t got a ha’penny,
Well God bless you.

One of my very favorite childhood associations with Easter is that my mother would make hot cross buns a few days before Easter Sundsay. We would often have them on Good Friday, and we almost always had them for breakfast on Easter morning. Strictly speaking, they’re actually Cross Buns, meant to be served “hot.” Cross buns are a sweet bread, with a sweet yeast dough made with currants and cinnamon; sometimes cloves or other spices, or candied orange peel are used. The round bun is then marked with a knife on the top; the cook makes two quick slashes with the knife before baking, and then (or in stead of) decorated with a white sugar-based glaze drizzled on the top of the warm-from-the-oven bun in the shape of a cross.

Despite a fair number of assertions that hot cross buns are pagan, the limited verifiable data we have about their origins associates cross buns firmly with England, Christianity, and the season of Lent, or more accurately, with Good Friday. The earliest specific reference we have is from 1733, when, according to the OED, Poor Robin’s Almanack asserts that “Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs, with one or two a penny hot cross buns,” in an alternate version of the nursery rhyme at the top of this post. In Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1791), Boswell notes: “9 Apr. An. 1773 Being Good Friday I breakfasted with him and cross-buns,” another probable reference to the proverbial Hot Cross bun. The buns were usually sold hot, fresh from the bakery, or sometimes, from street vendors.

In the Elizabethan era, Queen Elizabeth I passed a law forbidding bakers to make spiced breads and buns and sell on days other than those specified in the statute of 1592, which reads:

That no bakers, etc, at any time or times hereafter make, utter, or sell by retail, within or without their houses, unto any of the Queen’s subject any spice cakes, buns, biscuits, or other spice bread (being bread out of size and not by law allowed) except it be at burials, or on Friday before Easter, or at Christmas, upon pain or forfeiture of all such spiced bread to the poor

People would be free to make cross buns at home, for personal consumption; they just couldn’t sell them. There’s some suggestion of a tradition that called for using the same dough for the Sunday communion wafer to make the buns; though I’m finding many references to this as practice, none of the references, printed or digital, cite a primary source for the practice, and frankly it sounds a little suspect to me. I don’t know the reason behind the statute, except perhaps, that because of the cross and the tradition of serving them on Good Friday that the buns had a strong association in the popular mind with Catholicism, something that Elizabeth I, as a Protestant monarch, was understandably touchy about. The statute didn’t last long; by the time James I took the throne it was already proving difficult to enforce, and the crown soon abandoned the attempt, and the law. In addition to the tradition of only preparing them on Good Friday, for many Catholics there’s a parallel tradition that that is all that they may eat.

There are a number of recipes for cross buns online. This one calls for cinnamon, allspice, currants and orange rind, and is likely much closer to the “authentic” eighteenth century (and presumably older) versions. This one, using British measuring units also uses orange, and lime. This is a very straight-forward cinnamon and currants version. This is the recipe for Hot Cross Buns mother used when I was a child and that I still use today.

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Elsewhere for April 8, 2017

You should read this for 4/9/2017: Look Ma! A plagiarizer has the gavel, now even students can fact check your ass, and lunch shaming is shameful, but lunch is better with Kale. And potatoes. And Sausage. 

Gorsuch’s writings borrow from other authors “several passages from the tenth chapter of his 2006 book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, read nearly verbatim to a 1984 article in the Indiana Law Journal. In several other instances in that book and an academic article published in 2000, Gorsuch borrowed from the ideas, quotes and structures of scholarly and legal works without citing them.” Yep. That’s plagiarism. That’s not borrowing; it’s theft, and it is not ok, acceptable or “normal.”

Via NPR: Kansas Student Newspaper’s Fact Check Results In New Principal’s Resignation

Via The New York Times: New Mexico Outlaws School ‘Lunch Shaming’
“What is ‘lunch shaming?’ It happens when a child can’t pay a school lunch bill.”

Kale, Potatoes, and Sausage Soup Some soups work for Winter and Spring; this is one of them.

Read more ›

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Elsewhere for April 2, 2017

You should read this for 4/2/2017:

Indivisible: Stories of American Community Indivisible: Stories of American Community is an exploration of community life in America by some of this country’s most accomplished photographers, radio producers, and folklorists. Here are the stories of twelve communities where people are coming together to make their small piece of the world a better place to live.

Via Scotland’s Wellcome Library Names of the witches (in Scotland) c. 1658 Read more about it here; and see a transcript of names here.

Why Milton still matters Paradise Lost can still speak to readers on its 350th anniversary

Via The Verge: The 265 members of Congress who sold you out to ISPs, and how much it cost to buy them (Hint: they’re cheap). “Republicans in Congress just voted to reverse a landmark FCC privacy rule that opens the door for ISPs to sell customer data. Lawmakers provided no credible reason for this being in the interest of Americans, except for vague platitudes about “consumer choice” and “free markets,” as if consumers at the mercy of their local internet monopoly are craving to have their web history quietly sold to marketers and any other third party willing to pay.

The only people who seem to want this are the people who are going to make lots of money from it. (Hint: they work for companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.) Incidentally, these people and their companies routinely give lots of money to members of Congress.”

How Uber Deceives the Authorities WorldwideThere’s even more to the Uber sleaziness.

Via Southern Living: Angel Biscuits This is an interesting recipe, half biscuit, half roll, and it uses yeast, buttermilk, and baking powder for leavening.

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Elsewhere for March 26, 2017

You should read this for 3/26/2017: Education, Stonewall isn’t going to be forgotten, queers are here to stay, Easter Island has lessons to teach, roses are survivors and so are you, St. Joseph knew a thing or two about families, and apparently, pastry, and 💩🔥💰 is  . . . well. You go read the stuff behind the wall.

Hat tip to Bronwen (thanks!): Mike Taylor “ Every attempt to manage academia makes it worse” I love the takeaway at the end of the post; because it’s true, and it works.

Read Senator Patty Murray’s memo about the critical importance of public Education “The Trump Administration and some in Congress are pursuing an education agenda under the guise of providing students and families with so-called ‘school choice.”’ Though, on its face, this promise may sound appealing, in reality, this so-called answer doesn’t work for students and families for a number of critical reasons: It ignores the needs of students in rural areas without private school options, ignores the threats posed to students with disabilities and students who may face discrimination, and ignores the parents who believe in their communities and want their children to be able to attend strong public schools in their neighborhood. In other words, it is a false choice. The only true student and family agenda is one that delivers on the idea that every child, parent, and family should have the choice to attend a high-quality public school.”

A biographical essay on Sylvia Rivera, one of the people in front at Stonewall: “The crowd, according to witness Titus Montalvo, was 70 percent African American and Puerto Rican, and fronted in part by trans men and women, a fact that Rivera emphasized at every opportunity. ‘We were the frontliners,’ Rivera later told interviewers. “We didn’t take no shit from nobody,’ she explained. ‘We had nothing to lose.’”

The natives of Easter Island found paradise, and then destroyed it “For most of Easter’s inhabited history, deforestation was relatively gradual, and the people fell victim to “creeping normality,” gradual change that would be considered unacceptable if it happened all at once.” There’s good reason to loo at the Neolithic and early Medieval landscape of Ireland vs Ireland now and think of this story. As a species, we need to stop being such radical consumers and emphasize restoration and preservation, though it’s too late for climate change, we can mitigate.

Via Southern Living: The Rose That Survived Katrina

Zeppole di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Day Traditional Italian Pastries)These are good, and more fun if you make them with friends using an assembly line approach.


💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

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Elsewhere for March 19, 2017

You should read this for 3/19/2017:

Or see this

Cornell mathematician Steven Strogatz writing for The New Yorker on Why Pi Matters This is well-written, to-the-point, fascinating and understandable discussion regarding why, really, Pi matters. I love this: “Pi is inescapable because cycles are the temporal cousins of circles; they are to time as circles are to space. Pi is at the heart of both.”

Via The New York Times Simple Pleasure, American Style On the history of the humble, and increasingly decadent, brownie. I note, by the way, that apparently the brownie may have originated in Bangor, Maine, the land of the Whoopie pie.

Women in Business: The Silent Menace

A court’s decision in a Maine labor dispute hinges on the absence of an Oxford comma. Let this be a lesson to all of us, including my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.

Via Forbes: Unspeakable Realities Block Universal Health Coverage In The US

Dolly Parton’s recipe for Walnut pie

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee suggested Thursday President 💩🔥💰 disclosed classified information during a Fox News interview the night before.Rep. Adam Schiff

See also Slate’s Oops, he did it again: Donald 💩🔥💰 just can’t stop himself from blurting out state secrets.

Angela Merkel Just Fact Shamed 💩🔥💰 About the One Thing he’s Supposed to Know If you’re not familiar with German’s Chanceller, Angela Merkel, she’s totally awesome.

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Elsewhere for March 5, 2017

You should read this for 3/5/2017: Big data and politics means money, death served cold, read more, think more, do more, digital monks, she reads way more than he does,  and scones.

Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media “With links to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage, the rightwing US computer scientist [Robert Mercer] is at the heart of a multimillion-dollar propaganda network.”

Slain SEAL’s dad wants answers: ‘Don’t hide behind my son’s death’. Not surprisingly, he’s being mostly ignored by the man who casually decided to send men to their deaths, over dinner, with inadequate advice, for a mission of very little value or point.

Ken Norton of Google Ventures on How I Read More Books. Norton notes that “I read 61 books last year and it was easier than I thought.” Norton offers specific suggestions, and a link to another really interesting piece on Warren Buffett’s reading habits.

The Monk Who Saves Manuscripts From ISIS Father Columba Stewart of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library

Notice the headline she’s noticing.

You guys, my friend is on the same plane as Hillary Clinton. Zoom in on the title of the article she’s looking at. pic.twitter.com/356oE9uT0s

— J👏🏻O👏🏻H👏🏻N (@thelastwalt) March 3, 2017

And in case you»re wondering, the paperback book Ms. Clinton is reading is Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson.

Cream scones easy, and delicious. And it’s that kind of weather.

💩🔥💰Trumpery💩🔥💰

Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election HackingSaving data before it’s deliberately lost.

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Elsewhere for March 12, 2017

You should read this for 3/12/2017:

Zell Liew on How to choose and pair typefaces

Outsmarted: On the liberal cult of the cognitive elite or “What does it mean to be ‘smart,’ and why does it matter to us so much?”

Via Medium: Chris Coyier I was strongly reminded about the scariness of non-secure websites the other day.

Poachers just killed a beloved white rhino — inside a French zoo “Wildlife crime is run by organized crime syndicates with very complex networks of middlemen moving rhino horns from Africa and India to networks in Southeast Asia. With the poaching crisis at such an alarming rate, it was sadly only a matter of time before these animals in zoos and other protected areas were targeted.”

Ex-Hillary Clinton Campaign Manager: What I Wish I Knew About Russian Hacks

If You See Something, Save Something – 6 Ways to Save Pages In the Wayback Machine | Internet Archive Blogs

Extra-Bittersweet Chocolate Pots de Crème

💩🔥💰Trumpery💩🔥💰

Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking

Trump, Offering No Evidence, Says Obama Tapped His Phones“Democrats sharply criticized [💩🔥💰’s] calls on lawmakers Sunday to investigate his baseless claim that former President Barack Obama tapped his phone.” Meanwhile, Comey Asks Justice Dept. to Reject Trump’s Wiretapping Claim and ‘DESTRUCTIVE, BASELESS, RECKLESS:’ WASHINGTON RESPONDS TO TRUMP WIRETAPPING CLAIMS in which “President Obama’s former director of national intelligence denied there ever was a federal court order authorizing wiretapping of Donald Trump properties on a day when the chair of the House intelligence committee said it would heed the president’s call for a Congressional probe of his unsubstantiated surveillance claims.” US Supreme Court held in 1972 that POTUS cannot unilaterally order domestic wiretaps.

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How to Talk About Poetry

Let’s be honest. Reading poetry, in the greater scheme of things, is just this side of engaging in an obscenity. Poetry is meant to be spoken or sung or chanted; it’s meant to be heard and shared, it’s not meant to be a sullen and solitary vice. Poems live when they are shared; they should be spoken and heard and passed on and celebrated. Fortunately, anyone can read and enjoy and comment appreciatively and intelligently about poetry. You don’t have to be some sort of creative writer, or a poet, or an artist, or sensitive, or anything, beyond a thoughtful reader.

I thought I hated poetry for much of my life; it wasn’t until I read this poem that I realized I liked some poems. I thought I hated poetry because of the way poetry was presented to me in school, where teachers spent hours trying to explain meter and scansion (it’s not that big a deal, and you can read and like poetry just fine without knowing anything about meter or rhyme schemes). If you like music with lyrics, if you like songs, then you like poetry.

Moreover, no matter what your English lit teacher told you—poetry has a multiplicity of possible readings. There are lots and lots of ways for people to read the same poem; they’re all valid, as long as readers can tie their response to the poem. Even “I don’t really like this poem because it brings up a really unpleasant memory” is a valid response for that person at that time to that poem. Moreover, lived experience can change the way we read a poem, or the ways it makes us feel. We aren’t static and unchanging; neither is poetry.

What then do you talk about with respect to a poem? To start, you can talk about what you notice about it. Is there a particular line or section that draws your attention? Is there something that reminds you of something in your life, or perhaps something else you’ve seen or read? Are there any patterns, or sounds, or words, or imagery, that you find interesting or that attract your notice? Is there something that you just simply like about the poem (or dislike)?

Poetry by its nature is compact. A poem is language is compressed, without excess words. That means it’s particularly fun to look for patterns that shine through the compact shape of a poem. Patterns of image, and metaphor, of sound, and rhythm—and perhaps even more interesting, to look for places where the poet sets up a pattern, and then changes, or departs, or alters that pattern.

If you want something a little more formal, here’s a getting started guide to writing about poetry in academic terms. Me, I’d rather just talk about why I love a particular poem, and how it works, including, how it works on me.

Posted in Poetry, Writing and Language

Elsewhere for February 26, 2017

You should read this for 2/26/2017:

From Time: This Is the Real Reason Apple Is Fighting the FBI

Via The New Yorker: The Radical Argument of the New Oxford Shakespeare

Via Sciencenordic.com (hat tip to mirabilis.ca) New study reignites debate over Viking settlements in England

“Though some people may think the job involves more shushing than rallying, many librarians consider “making America read again” to be a radical political proposition.” “Librarians decide what gets preserved and how information is classified, which inherently affects how people find that information and who is likely to find.” In other words, Librarians are the best kind of Finding Aids.

Via SFWA: 2016 Nebula Award Nominees

Rumana Ahmed via The Atlantic: “I thought I should try to stay on the NSC staff during the [current] Administration, in order to give the new president and his aides a more nuanced view of Islam, and of America’s Muslim citizens.
I lasted eight days.”

Via Simply Recipes: How to Make Overnight Oatmeal

💩🔥💰Trumpery💩🔥💰

NPR: Trump Ethics Monitor: Has The President Kept His Promises?

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Western Wind

Western wind, when will thou blow?
The small rain down can rain.
Christ, if my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again!

Anonymous; British Library Royal Appendix 58 c. Early Sixteenth Century

“Western Wind” (or “Westron Wyde” as the ms. has it) is an anonymous lyric from the early 16th century (c. 1530). It’s extant in a single manuscript that appears to have been a commonplace book used by several English court musicians associated with the royal court and were collecting musical pieces for lute. As Julia Craig-McFeely notes  British Library Royal Appendix 58 (RA58) is actually

two music manuscripts that became bound together as the single source, Royal Appendix 58, one inserted inside the other some considerable time after their respective compilations—possibly at the time they became part of the Royal collection in the British Museum. The outer portions of RA58, the part of the MS containing the lute music, was written throughout by the same scribe, though it is difficult to see this as the tablature section has little text with which to compare the other music, and the manuscript is suffering badly from the effects of fading. This section of the MS isa collection of tenor voice parts, and the original parchment cover was marked ‘Tenor’ by its owner. The inserted book was a collection of medius and contratenor parts, indicated by its scribe writing ‘medius’ at the top of the first page.

The general consensus regarding the RA 58 is that it’s from about 1530; the language of the poem could easily be earlier, and I suspect (but can not prove) that it’s perhaps c. 1400. There is music presented in RA58 with the text, but interpreting what the notation means is a bit difficult. Musicians and composers have come up with different melodies.

“Western Wind” is one of the first poems that grabbed my attention in that This Is Important way when I was teenager reading my father’s old copy of the Quiller-Couch edition of The Oxford Book of English Poetry. The poem seemed so very simple, a tiny four-line love-lyric (a particularly English love-lyric, given its reference to rain). It captures the feeling of love-in-absence, the emotional state of the lover longing for the presence of the beloved, the comforts of home and a familiar and shared bed.

I like the way the poem uses repetition in the second line, drawing our attention to the phrase “The small rain down can rain” — notice the way the line catches our ear and eye with the repetition of “rain,” as both verb and noun, and the way the meter emphasizes the words as if they were themselves falling rain. “The small rain” is a particularly English phrase as well, referring both to the constant steady fall of micro drops that are almost more like mist than rain, and to “a little rain,” where “small” refers to quantity rather than the size of the drops.

The phrase “the small rain” is one with an ancient history. Here’s the entry from the OED for the phrase. You’ll notice that there’s an archaic letter, the eth (ð = th sound) no longer used in English.

Small rain III. 10. a. Composed of fine or minute particles, drops, etc. In later use chiefly of rain.

c897 K. AELFRED Gregory’s Past. C. lvii. 437 Swiðe lytle beoð ða dropan ðaes smalan renes, ac hi wyrceað ðeah swiðe micel flod. c1000 Sax. Leechd.

1649 WINTHROP New Eng. (1853) I. 209 The Rebecka,..two days before, was frozen twenty miles up the river; but a small rain falling set her free.

1676 WOOD Jrnl. in Acc. Sev. Late Voy. I. (1694) 177 Thick Fogs with small Rain. 1727 A. HAMILTON New Acc. E. Indies I. xxii. 262 A small Rain happened to fall that damped my Powder. 1823 SCOTT Quentin D. i, Heaven, who works by the tempest as well as by the soft small rain (OED small, a. and n.2 III.10.a).

The same phrase is used in the King James 1611 Bible, in Deuteronomy 32:2:

My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass

The date of the King James translation is too late to have directly influenced “Western Wind,” but it does show the use of the phrase—and it’s not impossible that it was influenced by the lyric.

In English custom and poetry the western wind is the wind of spring; see for instance Robert Herrick’s short lyric, “To the Western Wind,” which also treats the west wind as a gentle wind that brings rain. John Masefield does something similar in his “The West Wind.” The spring opening of Chaucer’s Prologue to The Canterbury Tales summons the west wind by name, in his invocation of Zephyru, the Greek god associated with the west wind and spring. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ode to the West Wind” has a similar association between the western wind and rain—but in Shelley’s poem the wind is associated with autumn, and Italy.

In this very English poem, notice that the narrater—who could be a woman or a man, we don’t know—says, somewhat urgently, or perhaps plaintively, “when” will the small rain come? It reminds me very much of the moment when the barometric pressure changes, just before the rain comes, and it’s suggestive of the speaker’s own state of mind.

A melody with the same “Western Wind” title was used by a number of sixteenth century English composers (most notably Thomas Tallis, Richard Taverner and Christopher Tye) as the cantus firmus in the Mass, under the less than surprising title of the Western Wind Mass, but it isn’t clear that the tune used by the masses is the same one recorded in British Library Royal Appendix 58 c; in fact it seems rather unlikely. It’s also not clear that the tune used by the composers wasn’t simply another tune for our lyric.  Either way, the various masses are all quite lovely, whether or not directly related to the lyric.

Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars. Western Wind Masses (Taverner—Tye—Shepard)
iTunes | Amazon

The Tallis Scholars & Peter Phillips. The Tallis Scholars Sing Tudor Church Music – Volume One
iTunes | Amazon

Posted in Commentary, Poetry, Writing and Language