Just a few days ago, I noted my love
for highly specific food traditions, tied to holidays and celebrations -- hoppin' john
on New Year's Day, king cake
on Mardi Gras, mint juleps
on Derby Day. So, it seemed foolhardy not to avail myself of a Moravian Love Feast bun when I had the chance, seeing as how I was in North Carolina, and my in-laws have been attending the Christmas Eve Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church's Love Feast since back when Rudolph was a fawn. I'm not, by habit, a churchgoing gal, but was assured that all (even long-lapsed Catholic school girls like me) are welcome to share in the ritual.
What the heck is a Love Feast, you ask? Well, according to North Carolina and Old Salem Cookery (1955):
No church service is more distinctive than a Moravian love feast. Love feasts are held in connection with holidays such as Christmas, New Year's, Easter and on days of special significance to the church such as church anniversaries and a day set aside to honor missionaries.
During the love feast, each person in the church receives a large, flat yeast bun and a mug of coffee containing cream and sugar.
The love feast is symbolic of the fellowship of the church. The idea behind the simple meal is that those who break bread together are united in the fellowship the way a family is.
While there are regional variations in the components of the feast -- some congregations subbing in warm cider or hot Russian tea for the coffee, or embossing an "M" on the bun tops, rather than the Moravian star seen in the image above -- the recipe invariably calls for the inclusion of mashed potatoes. As a choir or orchestra performs, the buns are passed in baskets throughout the congregation, followed by cups of the hot beverage. After these have been collected, beeswax candles -- decorated with red paper frills to catch dripping -- are distributed to the assembled, lit from wick to wick, and carried in procession out of the church.
Two bun recipes after the jump.