Lent and Easter are full of seasonal foods. Chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks are the likely conversation starters nationwide, but here in Buffalo you can’t make it through a conversation without including the famous butter lamb.
With every unique eat or holiday custom you hear about in Western New York – from the “angel wings” chrusciki to the post-Lenten bash, Dyngus Day – just about every one of them stems from European culture and is faith-based. Most people don’t consider the religious symbolism behind the popular foods they eat every spring – be it pork (a “forbidden” food) or bread or eggs (signs of new life) – they just know it’s all good!
And for the cute little creamy butter lamb, the same rings true. There is a very significant meaning to the butter lamb, which ties specifically to the biblical time of Passover and the exodus of the Jews from slavery. During this time, the blood of a sacrificial lamb was placed at their door so the angel of death would pass over their first born. Catholics refer to Jesus and His sacrifice as the Lamb of God.
Today, the lamb in its butter form is usually accompanied by a ribbon around the neck and a cross or a banner with a blessing such as “Alleluia” on its back. Peppercorns make the eyes, said to symbolize the light of the world. So why make it of butter?
Simple. To eat! Butter is an ingredient in just about everything so we can pin the idea on necessity.
In traditional times, the Broadway Market is butter lamb headquarters, and Malczewski’s stand within the market (Malla-cheski’s) is where the Buffalo butter lamb got its start. Because of the ongoing pandemic, if you aren’t able to make it to the East Side market, thankfully, most of the major grocers in the area carry at least a size or two in stock.
Happy Easter, Happy Spring!