Easter 2024: the chocolate festival is here, so let's gorge ourselves on eggs and bunnies - Gaby Soutar

What is the religious significance of Easter again? I’ve forgotten. I think many of us have.Well, those anno domini times are a wee while ago now, I’m sure He will let us off. These days, the event feels like a marker of spring, but also an excuse to rejoice at the pagan festival of chocolate.
The head of M&S's Dougal the puppyThe head of M&S's Dougal the puppy
The head of M&S's Dougal the puppy

There seems to be more of the sweet stuff than at Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, or any of the other thinly disguised sugar-gorging dates put together.

I think we should drop the pretence that these occasions are about anything else.

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Just schedule in a dozen Chocolate Days throughout the year, and we can have a bank holiday, strip naked, smear ourselves in Nutella and cavort at the top of Calton Hill, while burning a wicker effigy of Willy Wonka. The tourists will love it.

Two bunnies hunthing for eggs Pic: AdobeTwo bunnies hunthing for eggs Pic: Adobe
Two bunnies hunthing for eggs Pic: Adobe

My mind has been blown by what’s currently in shops and supermarkets.

The eggs started appearing almost two months ago, and have reached their peak today. (Tomorrow, they’ll be half price, if you can keep your powder dry).

Every existing choccy bar has been pimped up, filled with ganache and wrapped in colourful foil.

I’ve been tempted by an angular Toblerone egg, with awkward edges that I know will bother my gums, and a Quality Street one that’s the size of a rugby ball. Once again, M&S has released a range of chocolate dogs, and you feel as if someone might rat you to the SSPCA when you crack their cute hollow bonces off.

As well as the standard Creme Eggs, there are versions that are white, and filled with caramel.

“How do you eat yours?” the advert used to ask. I’m afraid it’s just in one bite, since they appear to have shrunk. I certainly didn’t ever experience the brief chippy trend of having them battered and deep fried.

Those classics are my Achilles heel, as are the original Cadbury Mini Eggs, with their hard and powdery pastel-coloured shells. I’m not the only one, as I used to have a colleague who ate a packet of these every day in lieu of lunch.

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This is despite the fact that there are lots of grown-up Easter eggs available, made with the darkest chocolate and filled with Champagne truffles and their ilk. My immature palate prefers the kids stuff. Gimme a Lindt rabbit instead.

I have already bought myself about five large eggs, so I can pick away at them over the following days.

It was probably at this time of year, aged about six, that I discovered I was a chocoholic. I know this because I loved Easter as much as Christmas and birthdays. We generally didn’t usually have a lot of child-accessible chocolate in the house. I would try to steal pieces of my dad’s jumbo bar of Cadbury Fruit and Nut, but it was usually well hidden and he’d probably counted the remaining squares.

At Easter, my sister and I would get a collection going. Most of the eggs came from an elderly aunt, who lived in a gloomy Stockbridge flat that smelled like biscuits. We adored her, but mainly for her chocolate gifts, since kids are as inclined to cupboard love as cats.

Then we rationed. I had a drawer in my bedroom that I filled with my sugary goodies.

Occasionally, I would open it, and just wonder at my hoard, as if I was Indiana Jones discovering a treasure.

This would be a sort of edible mini landscape, which was populated by those cheap yellow chicks - you know, the ones that are just a bit of fluff with stick on eyes and plastic feet. The chocolate was only in the form of eggs and bunnies back then. They would live together happily. Never to hatch, or get myxomatosis, in my bedroom.

Each day, I would break a small piece off. It would be important to try to elongate Easter until it lasted about two months. When the chocolate started to bloom white and absorb the scent of the lavender drawer liner, you knew you had to start eating a bit faster.

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My sister wasn’t so good at this technique, so she’d finish her collection first, then start sniffing around mine. However, I did regular stock takes, so she couldn’t get away with any pilfering.

It’s different now. My nieces and nephews get SO many eggs and imbibe them in vast quantities. Forget mindful eating, they will motor through their haul like sweet-mandibled locusts.

I only ever remember going to one actual egg hunt. It was in a nearby garden, and there were jewel-coloured foil-wrapped chocolates, strung on branches and tucked into the shrubbery. Anyway, it was magic.

I try to recreate that with my nephews and nieces. They LOVE it, though it always ends in tears.

The older kids steam ahead, and grab all the eggs, while the four-year-old needs help to find them and ends up with barely anything.

Then, after that trauma, we have to confiscate the lot, so they can be counted out and redistributed equally. I feel like a taxman, rather than a jolly bunny.

Sometimes I can also be too enthusiastic with my hiding places. I discovered an Easter egg in a wellie boot about six months ago. Ate it. Tasted absolutely fine.

Anyway, don’t get the impression that I only think about my stomach. This time of year isn’t purely about chocolate.

Did I ever tell you how much I love hot cross buns?



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