My favourite thing about lent is the sudden explosion of hot cross buns onto shelves up and down the nation. They are everywhere; in packets at the supermarkets, piled high on bakery shelves, behind glass counters at cafes… Grilled and served warm, with butter melting gently into the soft bread, and accompanied by a cup of tea. Heaven in a little fruity bun.
Oh I love them. A joy and a treat during those long forty days of Lent, when it seems everyone has given up fun in one form or another. I want to laugh when some miserable sod is droning on about how they haven’t had a biscuit for a week, or chocolate since Sunday or this, or that, or whatever… “Please will you sponsor me not to eat cake til Easter?” What?! No! You haven’t had bacon for breakfast this month? Good for you. But you want my sympathy? Haha. Do you know how much mental agony I go through just to eat one tiny square of chocolate, my favourite food in all the world? No. I can’t even remember the last time I ate a slice of cake, and you want me to give you money for managing without it for one measly month? Go away.
I am well aware this is my anorexia talking, and for that I apologise. I am jealous. Jealous of those people who can enjoy food. The people for whom every mouthful is not torture, for whom meals are not an exercise in calorie maths. The people who can look at food without the quickened breathing, the pain rising in the chest, the shaky hands that warn of an impending panic attack. The people who can munch on their favourite treats without a moment’s guilt or a trace of anxiety.
Which brings me back to hot cross buns.
A foavourite treat of mine, that anorexia has stolen from me. When a packet appeared on our kitchen table on Saturday morning after the weekly shopping trip, I promised myself that I would have one. I would have to defy anorexia. But I was determined.
And so, on Sunday afternoon I carefully prepared my first hot cross bun of the season. I sliced it open, marvelling at the plump fruits bursting from the fluffy white dough. I took my defiance of anorexia one step further and spread a tiny helping of margarine onto each half. I arranged the bun on a plate and made the obligatory cup of tea. A perfectly British Sunday afternoon tea
(because this is how we all eat, all the time, with the Queen. Obviously).
I could feel the panic bubbling up inside me. I wanted so badly to achieve this. To eat that damn bun. I managed half. And you know what, I’m happy with that. That was a huge defiance of the anorexic voice that robs me of so much joy and happiness in my life. My achievement was small, and quiet, and simple. It was just a moment on an unremarkable Sunday afternoon. But I fought so hard to eat half a hot cross bun. And I will take strength from the fact that I managed it. Because next Sunday… I’m gonna have a whole one!