Tuesday was the first official day of spring, the Vernal Equinox (or March Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere where it’s the first official day of fall). The day is one of only two times a year when there are nearly equal hours of day and night everywhere on the planet. To celebrate our near perfect 12 hours of daylight, ICE had a very special culinary demonstration with food historian and author Michael Krondl on the history of spring food traditions.

Krondl is a food historian and the author of Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert, in which he travels the world to discuss the stories and legends we tell ourselves about our sweet indulgences. The book explores sweets from a wide variety of cultural and historical perspectives, including Indian, Turkish, French, Austrian, Italian and American.

Across cultures, the spring is a time of celebration of renewal, often with elaborate rituals involving rebirth and fertility. In addition to Easter and Passover, spring is also the mark of a new year in Iran, Albania, Crimea, and Kosovo (yesterday was the first day of the Iranian year 1391).

But for the demo, Krondl focused on Easter dining traditions from across Europe and made a Focaccia Pasquale, also known as Venetian Easter Cake. He discussed how enriched yeast breads are likely one of the oldest pastries on the planet, dating back to at least ancient Sumerian times through ancient Greece and ancient Rome through to modern breads. The cake Krondl demonstrated was typical of an Italian cake made specifically for Easter. He said, “The rituals and symbolism associated with these enriched breads may have abated, but they are still made especially for the holidays.” His beautiful Easter cake included almonds, butter, cinnamon, cloves and orange zest, among other rich and fragrant ingredients —definitely a sweet treat to celebrate a new season.

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