Rebecca Coffey

Anaïs Nin’s Hot Cross Buns

Excerpt Courtesy of The Rumpus and author Rebecca Coffey. See the full piece here.


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.