• The joys of fairy bread are clear. (Mary and Andrew/Flickr Creative Commons.)Source: Mary and Andrew/Flickr Creative Commons.
Fairy bread is a childhood birthday party treat for many of us, but during a global pandemic, it's a source of comfort and delight.
Alana Schetzer

17 Apr 2020 - 10:40 AM  UPDATED 17 Apr 2020 - 11:46 AM

On New Year's Eve, I spent the evening with my sister's family and their friends. On the kitchen table was a cheese platter so fantastic that it had the power to solve the conflict between the Capulets and Montagues, and bring Salvador Dali back to life.

It was glorious. Smoked cheddar, mushroom pate, vodka-soaked olives, bitey parmesan and the type of savoury, crunchy biscuits that make you want to eat so many you'll be forced to wear elasticised pants for the next seven months.

But I abandoned that platter as soon as I laid my eyes on the real prize of that evening - the fairy bread.

There were easily two loaves worth that had been squeezed onto two plates, covered in cling wrap. One of the guests had bought it for the kids to tuck into, but she didn't expect the biggest kid of the night - me - to lay claim to it, along with the other adults.

I'd forgotten how good it was; soft, not too sweet and just...joyous.

I spent most of the night hunched over the plates, giving evil side-eye to anyone who took a triangle of fairy bread.

Since then, I've dedicated Saturday mornings eating fairy bread for breakfast and pairing with my other favourite childhood activity that I'd missed: watching cartoons. 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' and 'Uncle Scrooge' are my 'toons of choice.

My fairy bread is still basic, but I've upgraded it to using lightly toasted Challah, which is a delicious, eggy, slightly sweet bread that's popular during Jewish holidays. And so I sit, crossed-legged on a cushion on the floor in front of my television, still in my Star Wars pyjamas, and tuck into a plate of memories.

Fairy bread cake

You’ll be delighted with this fluffier and rather less floppy version of my childhood favourite!

It's simple, a little ridiculous and makes me happy.

For that brief time, once a week, life is really simple and easy; I'm not thinking about anything else (other than wondering where I can find original 'Inspector Gadget' cartoons to stream); it took me a long, long time to realise that in order to best cope with what life throws at you, you need to take a break from it, too. 

It goes without saying but I'll say it anyway: Fairy bread is not a sophisticated meal. In fact, I don't even think that anything with five or fewer ingredients can even be called a meal, legally.

"The older I become, the clearer I am about the joys of childhood and the need to hang on to those that bring comfort and delight."

Despite its ubiquitous presence as a birthday party staple during childhood, no one really knows how it came to be. There's a few claims as to who came up with the idea, with one of the earliest reference being was in 1929, when a story was published in a Tasmanian newspaper discussing fairy bread being served at childhood birthday parties, along with cakes and tarts. The name potentially derived from a 1885 poem, 'Fairy Bread', in Robert Louis Stevenson's 'A Child's Garden of Verse'.

While fairy bread is most certainly an Australian invention, the concept of bread and sugary sprinkles isn't a unique one; Holland has 'hagelslag', which features chocolate sprinkles on buttered bread. But it's not even remotely as good as fairy bread.

Chocolate smørrebrød

A favourite Danish breakfast food is pålægschokolade - wafer-thin sheets of chocolate that are used for sandwiches. This recipe combines the iconic Danish open sandwich - smørrebrød - with the Dutch take on fairy bread, hagelslag.

The older I become, the clearer I am about the joys of childhood and the need to hang on to those that bring comfort and delight. Adult life is complex and often hard: taxes, a competitive job market, pressure to marry someone - anyone, in fact, if you're a woman - climate change, rising property prices and according to the 60 or so research science studies that seem to be published daily, everything will kill you! 

There's a certain mental weariness that grinds at you, slowly, in the recesses of your brain.

Taking a break away from this, especially right now, and indulging in simple joys is not just a way to survive, but thrive.

Photos by Mary and Andrew under a Flickr Creative Commons licence.

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