FUNNY WOMEN #19: Anaïs Nin’s Hot Cross Buns



A 200-year-old stone farmhouse in which every room is painted a different color, and the maid opens the shutters at dawn.

Restlessness, and just a tad too much money relative to work expended.

Monotony and boredom. Illuminations and fevers.


Butter, eggs, warm milk, sugar, salt, yeast, raisins, currants, cinnamon, allspice, flour, water.


1.  In a small mixing bowl in a kitchen thick with opium smoke and surrounded by half-awake male admirers absentmindedly fondling themselves, dissolve 2 tsp. dry yeast in ½ cup warm milk. Stir in 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 egg, 4 teaspoons of sugar, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Set aside while the yeast dissolves.

2.  Hang a lamp where it will throw Balinese shadow plays on a kitchen chair. Take off your clothes and approach the chair. Don’t be nervous; you are in a state of grace, and everyone is mostly asleep, anyway. In accord with the surrealists, you are about to reach for the marvelous.

3.  Place one foot on the seat of the chair. Take a lipstick and begin rouging your sex. Everyone has days when they mend socks, weed the peonies, change the typewriter ribbon, and buy stationary. This will in no way be one of yours.

4.  Combine 3/4 cup of flour, 2 tablespoons of raisins, 2 tablespoons of currants, ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon, and a dash of allspice. Add to the yeast mixture and mix well. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough.

5.  Perhaps it is the utter airlessness of the room, or perhaps it is that you haven’t eaten since the opium binge began three days ago. But while applying the lipstick you will come to understand that the sight of the soft dough and the thought of what it could become has reached you in a squashy, pliable place so sequestered inside you that even you never knew it existed. Suddenly tremble. Bleat, “Eh! Mon Dieu!” and drop the lipstick, letting it clatter to the floor. The noise will awaken a man named Eduardo, who is haunted by marvelous tales he cannot tell. He will play the piano incessantly for the remainder of the day. Eduardo is your lover. Or brother. Or is it father?

6.  Demand of Eduardo, “Is the desire for hot cross buns one of those experiences one must live through?”

7.  When Eduardo smiles, release yourself onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 4-6 minutes. Then fling yourself into a greased bowl, turning once to oil yourself on top. Cover yourself with a silken, flowery kimono, and watch Eduardo quickly rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.

8.  Henry Miller will enter the room. When you first see him you will be appalled by his ugliness. His embrace would be like death, like an orgasm; you know that instinctively. And yet he is so virile, savage, magnificent. Somehow you long for him to punch your dough down, to say true things to you while he shapes your (yes, still lovely) flesh the way he likes it, needs it, kneads it. The way you want it. Oh.

9.  He has an interesting head.

10.  Any obstacle to accomplishment always lies in oneself. Don’t be shy. Tell Henry how lovely and demure your grey-gold eyes are.

11.  So that he can brag about his bestiality and intoxication.

12.  Which he will do if you let him rise for 30 minutes.

13.  But, Eduardo! You’d nearly forgotten! Read D. H. Lawrence to Eduardo while Henry poses you in odd positions on your belly on a baking sheet.

14.  A Hungarian adventurer will enter the room and asks to use your sharp knife to cut a cross into your buns.

15.  You can only hope.

16.  Beat an egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water; brush over buns, yours or theirs.

17.  Sob for no reason. Feel desperately sorry. Really, it is only out of pity that you do all of this.

18.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. Or not, if that seems to be taking things into territory that won’t seem fun once the opium has worn off.

19.  Don’t bother with the icing. Henry will decorate the buns with profanities no cookbook can touch. Have a premonition of great love to come. Become a writer so that you can remind others that these moments exist.



Original art by Ilyse Magy.


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Rebecca Coffey contributes to Scientific American and Discover magazines, and is a broadcasting commentator for Vermont Public Radio. Her short fiction, humor, and essays appear in various literary magazines. More from this author →