I love food. In fact, it’s my favourite pastime. Pizza, pasta, cheese, cakes, biscuits, seafood, roasts (preferably with Yorkshire pud), seafood; Indian, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, French, Spanish… You name it, I’ll eat it.
But ‘celebration’ food is the kind I love best. Whether you’re celebrating for personal, religious, cultural or family reasons, those are the times you’re feasting with people you love, building traditions.
For example, my birthday is the only day of the year I stand a chance of getting my I-am-so-over-the-kitchen mother to make me a winter lemon cake. This cake – a delight of airy white sponge, lemon curd and cream – is so delicious, my siblings and I have been known to erupt into spontaneous physical dispute whilst comparing slice sizes.
In the lead up to Christmas, my Australian half begins salivating at the thought of a visit to the Sydney Fish Market, while my Italian half begs for a roast leg of pork. And of course there’s gingerbread, plum pudding, fruit mince tarts, and so on. Yum, yum, yum.
Halloween is generally not celebrated here in Australia, but does that stop me from going on a search for candy corn? No, it does not! And if I can find a packet of black cat lollies while I’m on the hunt, all the better.
Being Australian doesn’t stop me from thinking about pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Nor did it stop me fasting during Ramadan alongside my Muslim colleagues when I was living in the Middle East, when my favourite Iftar treat was qatayef – delicious light pancakes filled with sweet cheese, dates, nuts or coconut.
I’m thinking about celebration food at the moment because Easter is approaching – and my food of choice for Easter is the hot cross bun. Every year from March 1 until Easter Sunday I am a woman on a mission, scouring bakeries to find the very best of them – and those suckers sell out fast, so I have to be on my toes during this odyssey.
Now, there are plenty of arguments for what constitutes a good hot cross bun. Your plain, humble bun, studded only with sultanas/raisins/currants? Should they include a smattering of mixed peel as well? What about chocolate chips? Last year, I even found a sticky date and caramel version. Now, I’ve always been a bit of a purist – plain and simple please, hold the fancy extras – but have recently been seduced by the addition of dried apricots, and it’s got me thinking about whether I would be equally susceptible to cranberries and cherries.
I’ve decided there is only one thing that’s a definite no-no: eating buns with sultanas year-round in some kind of faux hot cross bun binge. For one thing, any aficionado knows they’re nothing without the cross on the top. And for another… Well, what would be the fun in that?
It’s a bit like ANZAC biscuits, which, yes, you can buy and eat all year… But for me, there’s nothing quite like digging out my trusty old Commonsense Cookery Book on the day itself – ANZAC Day, April 25 – then donning my baking apron and getting stuck into it from scratch.
For those who don’t know, ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – which gives me a perfect opportunity, as an Aussie, to give a shout out to New Zealander and fellow Harlequin medical and Kiss author Louisa George, who was last week announced as a finalist in the Romance Writers of America 2015 RITA awards!
I have two new titles out this month – The Millionaire’s Proposition (Harlequin Presents) and Wanting Mr Wrong (Random Romance) – but since I’m talking about food, I’ve decided to take this opportunity to instead show off the cover of one of my earlier romantic comedies, Here Comes the Bridesmaid, because its heroine, Sunshine Smart, is a self-confessed carnivore and sugar addict.
I’d love to hear what your favourite food occasion is. Meanwhile, I’m going to go and pop a hot cross bun in the oven.
Happy Easter everyone!
1. Sunshine Smart has only got two months until the big day!
2. She has to include the grouchy, surly Best Man, Leo Quartermaine – a top chef and her complete opposite!
3. Said Best Man is extremely handsome & sexy – and knows it!
4. He has no interest in décor, flowers, clothes or shoes…but has an uninformed opinion on all four!
5. And just a few days in, she’s already slept with him…Rookie mistake…