Gap Creek Gourmet: Candy, eggs and hot cross buns

By Nichole Livengood, Contributing Columnist,

Easter traditions were always big at my house growing up, and they mainly centered on food. 

Easter morning, my brother and I would run into the dining room to see what the Easter bunny had left in our basket. If you asked me to pick a favorite Easter candy, I’d be hard pressed to pick just one: Reese’s eggs, jelly beans, Cadbury eggs, bunny and duck shaped circus peanuts, chocolate covered marshmallow rabbits.  Growing up it was all about the candy and getting sugared up before we put on our new uncomfortable Easter outfits and head off to church. 

After church we’d go to my grandmother’s house for a potluck spread of food: ham, deviled eggs, potato salad, cakes and pies.  The adults would empty the change from their pockets and purses onto my grandmother’s bed and stuff plastic eggs with money to be hidden all over the yard, tucked in wheel wells, balanced in the nook of a trees, and nestled in the Hyacinth blooms, while the kids waited in the bedroom with the curtains drawl. Once we were set free, we flew out of the house with our Easter baskets flailing behind us.  The goal was to find that half-clear plastic egg with a dollar in it.  That was jackpot!  Three dollars in change was magnificent in middle school.

When I met my husband, I was introduced to a whole other set of Easter traditions.  His father’s family is from Winston-Salem, and every Easter, they ate Hot Cross Buns.  Imagine a dense yeast roll, with candied fruit inside and a little icing cross on the top.   When we didn’t go to Winston-Salem for the holiday, I’d always grab a box from the Fresh Market to eat on Easter morning.

People ask me what hot cross buns are all of the time.  I’d never heard of them either before my husband.  Apparently, a version of hot cross buns dates back to ancient Greece, but they were sans icing, served cold, and were probably a loaf of bread with a cross made on top with a knife before baking. The English nabbed the tradition somehow and ate them mainly on Good Friday.  According to a Smithsonian article, in 1592, Queen Elizabeth I decreed that hot cross buns could only be sold on Good Friday, Christmas and in the event of a burial, because she held them so sacred.  The buns have been known to ward off evil spirits, signify a strong bond when shared with friends , and one Christian legend says if you hang a hot cross bun from your kitchen rafters on Good Friday, the bread will stay fresh and mold free all year long. (I won’t be trying this one.)

We still buy a box here and there on occasion around the Easter holiday, and am immediately reminded of all of the Easters growing up and those first trips to Winston-Salem during the Spring when I was introduced to my husband’s family and delicious hot-cross buns.

If you’d like to try hot cross buns for yourself during Easter this year, Cheryl and Steve at Upcountry Provisions in Travelers Rest are whipping some up for me and taking special orders just for you!  Give them a shout at 864-834-8433 to place your order for Easter, or you can order them online for pick-up at

Happy Spring and Happy Easter from Gap Creek Gourmet,