It happens but once a year. The smell of spicy cinnamon, warm nutmeg and sweet raisins wafting over the supermarket aisles, luring innocent shoppers to abandon their toilet paper purchases for a six-pack of doughy goodness, fresh from the oven. It may be an Easter phenomenon, with an almost religious following, but the lowly hot cross bun remains unchanged and unphased by its popularity. It’s humble offering of spices and dough cuts through all religions, unites all races and caters for all tastes and socio-economic classes, from Brackenfell to Bishops Court. Or at least it did.
Like many religions, the hot cross bun faces its own crisis, of content more than conscience. It’s downfall lies in its consistency of message. It has failed to cater for the needs of a new generation of carb-conscious individuals. It continues to preach the same tired gospel of instant gratification and comfort food by way of its yeast and flour beliefs. In truth, its gravest error is that it has failed to foresee the resurrection of the Banting diet and the rise (and rise) of Tim Noakes and his Real Meal Revolution, which puts a whole lot of faith (and science) in its low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) eating plan (please don’t say diet).
And what a revolution it has been. I have seen local restaurants do a 180 on their menu items, devout carbo-loaders pass on bowls of pasta (but not beer I might note) and sworn vegetarians reach for a lump of the organic rump. “It works”, they tell me. “I have so much more energy and feel amazing.”
What the simple hot cross bun does not understand is that our complex world requires a complex carbohydrate, or better yet, someone to turn complex science into a simple eating plan that tells them what they want to hear – meat and fat are good; fruit and bread are bad. Because regardless of what the good doctor is saying, that’s what a lot of people are hearing and repeating like grace at mealtime.
What strikes me about this revolution, as with many others, is that it breeds a fundamentalist follower, someone so keen to be swept up in its religious fervour that they often forget their common sense, or even that of Tim’s. They look past what their prophet has said time and time again – that this revolution is not for everyone. That it’s geared for the active, “carbohydrate resistant” individual who wants an eating plan for life not a diet of convenience. All they hear is “more meat”, and that in a country that could do with a lot less on the braai and clogging up our arteries.
The fundamentalist has read of the good book and reduced it to a few simple truths that reaffirm their meat-eating, fat friendly lifestyle. Regardless of what their other doctors, genes or blood tests are saying. As for the boring bits that preach a lifestyle without beer, they can always gather some scientific reasoning (beer reduces arthritis!) that can override this small oversight (their prophet is only human after all).
Just as long as they replace one science with another, they can rest at ease that logic still prevails.
Unfortunately the fundamentalist is intolerant of more than just wheat. It is not enough that you will adjust your dinner party menus to accommodate for the needs of their new lifestyle. They want to convert you and keep you away from the forbidden fruits, which they try to do by quoting random scriptures from their new bible, without context or thought for your physical needs.
In this world of rising fundamentalism, the outlook looks bleak for the lowly hot cross bun. If is to survive this age of the extremism, it must rid itself of its religious roots and make a play for its status as a cultural icon – as traditional as Mrs Balls chutney, as South African as Zoo biscuits and Ouma Rusks.
As for me I don’t pray at the altar of logic or science, which frees me to swop a little dough for a lot of it, 100% guilt free. But this year I plan to linger a little longer in the supermarket so I can watch the faithful banters salivating over the bakery counter display, tormenting themselves with their mental mantra: “What would Tim Do?”