|Easter Munching with Rum Hot Cross Scones from
Worthington’s Sassafras Bakery
Growing up in a Catholic household as a kid, Easter and the period leading up to it was something of a “weird” observance from a food perspective. Yes, we did observe the fish on Fridays deal (though the very-Midwest fish fry was not a thing), but we didn’t necessarily observe the fasting portions of Lent. Easter itself would sometimes have a celebratory meal, though it was never seemed as big as Christmas. We did the Easter Egg hunting thing for awhile, but eventually that faded out and was revived with my siblings and their kids. Chocolate eggs and bunnies were a little bit of a thing, but Easter Peeps were definitely not.
Some things do persist – we do generally observe the non-meat Fridays, and we do occasionally indulge in some Easter-themed candies. We may or may not grab a fish fry before this year’s Easter is here (we’ve got one weekend left to do that), and we’re definitely contemplating where we can land some delicious Hot Cross Buns (or, as pictured above, a very delicious alternative like Sassafras’s Rum Hot Cross Scones.)
But perhaps more than anything, we’re awaiting what comes beyond Easter this year – the warming weather that Spring brings, and all the food explorations that await. With that in mind, here is my latest playlist, which encompasses everything Easter, Passover, and food traditions from around the world (playlist embedded at the end of this post.)
1) “Butter Lamb” – Julie Byrne: Unsurprisingly, Eastern European countries have a slew of traditional culinary creations on the table for this traditional Holy day, and the Butter Lamb (basically, a slab of butter molded like a lamb, traditionally adorned with a red ribbon symbolizing the Blood of Christ) can be found in numerous households. Buffalo, NY-based Julie Byrne lived in once such household, featuring the creation on her 2016 album “Rooms With Windows and Walls.”
2) \Because the Night” – Patti Smith: Seemed like we should directly mention Easter in one of our selected tunes this week, and influential female rocker Patti Smith seemed like the ideal candidate. Her third album “Easter” saw her still trying to balance out art vs commercial considerations and balanced each nicely, helped out immensely (on the commercial side) by “Because the Night”, a tune co-penned by The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen.
3) “Heaven Sent” – Maamoul: A cookie traditionally made in Arabic countries before Easter and Eid, Ma’amoul consist of semolina flour and typically flavored with various nuts and dried fruits. Hailing originally from Germany, the Barcelona-based Maamoul offer up an appealing funk-pop pastiche in their music, like this track off their debut 2018 album “Funky Beast.”
4) “In My Own Time” – Bee Gees: Once specifically associated with Good Friday, Hot Cross Buns are a tradition in many countries for the Easter holidays, and have a number of origin stories (the most accepted stories center around it being a monk’s creation, though the century differs depending on the tale.) Featured on their 1970 debut album, the Brothers Gibb mentions the baked good in their song “In My Own Time”, singing “Sitting selling hot cross buns/Thousand suckers everyone/Sounds just like a nursery rhyme/In my own time.”
5) “Dolma” – Tenzin Phuntsok: Don’t discount the Greeks when it comes to creating Easter-related culinary dishes: everything from the traditional Tsoureki bread to Myaritsa Soup (created from lamb innards), roasted whole lamb and Tzatziki sauce can be found on the table at various times, as well as Dolmas, stuffed-grape leaves which are a staple in many big meals. Hailing from Tibet, Tenzin Phuntsok creates a slightly different interpretation of “Dolma”, fitting in with his preferred dwelling in Tibetan-language pop/love songs.
6) “My Mother’s Brisket” – Rick Moranis: while they don’t always overlap, the Jewish Passover period and Christian Easter observance generally are seen as happening at the same time by the average layperson. Our little Passover segment starts off with none other than actor Rick Moranis, who waxes eloquently about her mother’s brisket on his Seder table on his 2013 album “My Mother’s Brisket & Other Love Songs.”
7) “Cantata of the Bitter Herbs, Op. 65 (Hymn)” – Ernst Toch: Symbolizing the harsh treatment the Egyptians gave to their Jews during their enslavement, bitter herbs are a Passover Seder must. As noted in the Milken Archive, the “Cantata of the Bitter Herbs” originated in 1937, via collaboration with Toch and two Reform Rabbis in Los Angeles to create a classical work based on the Passover story. As it turned out, Toch generally ignored the traditional songs associated with the holiday, creating a classically-based work that “(transcended) the confines of Jewish history and experience to express a universal theme: the equal injustice of all human oppression throughout the world, the natural longing for freedom by all such victims, and the legitimacy of struggle for liberation in all such cases.”
8) “Still Playing For Latkes” – Kugelplex: Hailing themselves as the West Coast’s “most rockin’-est purveyor of klezmer and old-world party music” this San Francisco-based outfit has been knocking out traditionally-styled rhythms for weddings and concerts for two decades. Both Latkes and Kugel are both Passover food traditions, and here we get the double-dose with Kugelplex’s rendition of “Still Playing For Latkes.”
9) “Let Me Get a Large Pizzelle (No Sausage)” – The Not Fur Longs: Italians have their own Easter-oriented food traditions, from Colomba (a dove-shaped almond bread) to Casatiello (a salty cake filled with all sorts of goodies like salami, cheese, and eggs) to Pizzelles, sweet wafer-like cookies which are popular with many throughout the world, and not just for Easter either. In some ways, the Jersey-based Not Fur Longs and their song aren’t the story here, but rather the album it appears on. Included on the “Arbor Christmas 16” album, the “Arbor Christmas” collection was inspired by an idea by Jon Montague to mirror the old Christmas specials of the past, where a band would come by to perform a song with him. Montague died after the second year of this undertaking, but the series has continued (now on its 20th iteration) both in memory to him as well a charitable venture.
10) “Houses of the Holy (Remaster)” – Led Zeppelin: Hailing from Lithuania, Cepelinai (Zeppelin) are hearty meat and potato dumplings found on many Easter-time feasts. Representing this hearty dish are the hearty chops of none other than heavy rock gods Led Zeppelin, whose “Houses of The Holy” is just one of many solid tracks from their 1975 album “Physical Graffiti.”
11) “Halo-Halo” – Mikey Bustos, Bogart the Explorer: While The Philippines is one of the countries that takes its holidays very seriously (their Christmas celebration lasts for 100 days), there has never really been a dish that’s been super-closely associated with the Easter celebration. With that said, Ginataang Halo-Halo, a sweet stew featuring glutinous rice balls, taro root, sago pearl, jackfruit and coconut milk, may be the closest thing that fits the bill. Admittedly, the “Halo-Halo” here sung about by Mikey Bustos and Bogart the Explorer, relates more to the shaved-ice dessert than the stewed rendition, but no one ever said there was anything wrong with enjoying either during this holiday.
12) “Pan de Pascua” – El Wiro Cumbia: While “Pascua” in Spanish is generally associated with Passover, for the largely Roman Catholic country of Chile, their “Pan de Pascua”, a fruitcake-styled creation containing things like ginger, honey, and dried fruit, is often associated with a number of holidays, including Christmas, Epiphany and Easter; here, the Chilean-based El Wiro Cumbia does the honors with the ode to this sweet tradition.
13) “Egg & Daughter Nite, Lincoln Nebraska” – John Prine: We couldn’t finish off this list without a little nod to the secular side of this holiday; in fact, some sources indicate that the holiday’s observance goes back to Pagan observances related to Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring and fertility. Modern day customs traditionally involve finding eggs and bunny rabbits, with the first of our secular couplet coming courtesy of the legendary Americana/Country singer John Prine. Relating an unusual tale he had heard about how egg sellers would drop off their daughters at the roller skating rink, he turned this folklore into one of ten songs on what would turn out to be his last studio album, the 2018 “Tree of Forgiveness”.
14) “White Rabbit” – Jefferson Airplane: Peter Cottontail, The Easter Bunny, the Easter Bilby (in Australia, rabbits are considered a pest; the endangered Bilby is far more beloved) – whatever your egg toter might be in your part of the world, we give a nod to it here with this pop classic from Jefferson Airplane, which uses a Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” motif for this surrealistic number. In true Easter tradition, most holiday diners can take inspiration from the end of the song, when lead singer Grace Slick wails about Carroll’s dormouse – “Feed Your Head…Feed Your Head.”