02 February 2013


Whichever asshole said that man can’t live by bread alone was a liar and an fool. You can. And I know because I have. When your diet is as restrictive as mine, you soon learn to take what you can get, and in a social setting, a hotel dining room, or on an airplane, that’s usually buns.

Of all the foods that I have wanted to discuss on this blog, buns never really crossed my mind as something warranting my time and energy. Before I get into it, I want to clarify that the only buns that will be discussed in this post are the small round buns that you can find in the Overwaitea bakery section and which are almost always present in either a basket or a bowl at large lunch/dinner events. They are also always served on planes and usually the only thing I will eat on such occasions. There are so many other buns--pizza buns (!!!), cinnamon buns, cheese buns, my niece’s rendition of Hot Crossed Buns--that will be saved for future posts.

So why buns? Why now? This post was specifically solicited by one of my avid readers, and I can only assume that she is so keen to know my opinion of buns because one time at a festive party at her house, I opted for a solo bun over a heaping pile of ham. No offense to the hosting family, but I always go for buns when I am at one of these casual gatherings where there’s a table of food and no rigorously controlled method for eating it. Of course, had it been a sit down meal with endless trays and dishes of food being passed around and around, I would have helped myself to some ham (and perhaps demanded a bowl of frozen peas), but in the words of a wise Hungarian scholar, the bun “is for small people always on the go.” By limiting myself to one bun, I maximized my mobility and therefore my sociability--a charm I am well known for.

Sally Lunn Bun.
In my post on rice, I wrote about how rice is one of those foods that is always there for you and that you don’t have to spend too much time thinking about. I kind of feel the same way about buns, except that I am also always a bit disappointed when I realise that I am going to have to eat a bun because there is nothing else to eat. On an airplane, for example, there is a 90% chance that the only part of the meal I am going to eat will be the bun. There have been times when I’ve really lucked out and they serve spaghetti bolognese, but it’s usually some sort of chicken curry (one time Air Canada even served fish and didn’t offer a vegetarian option! Or at least not to me) and it’s all so mixed up in that little dish that I can’t pick out a single thing. So when I look down and realise that all I’m going to be eating is that bun, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed. That is until I break the bun open and spread one of those little pads of butter on it and eat it and remember how much I love eating buns with butter and wonder why I don’t do it all the time. I love eating anything with butter, but buns are especially good because the butter doesn’t melt so when you bite in, you will inevitably get a bit with a lot of semi-solid butter and it’s such a rush! You’re a bit disgusted with yourself because you’re just eating chunk of butter, but it’s also really hard to care because 1) it’s delicious and 2) you’re on a plane, and any disgusting behaviour goes on a plane.

Buns are a safe bet because you (almost) always know what you’re getting, but the other reason I am so dedicated to buns is in part to combat this rising fad of “gluten free.” I will be the first to admit that I don’t know what gluten is, but I do know that it’s found in breads and pastas--two of my favourite foods--and that it is becoming increasingly and annoyingly popular to be “free” of it. Some people claim that their bodies cannot tolerate gluten, and at the risk of sounding too much like a tyrannical monster, let me just say that if you are one of these people, then it is high time you asked yourself whether or not you truly belong in this world. I feel that it is my personal duty to do all that I can to ensure that gluten will always be in our diets by eating as much of it as possible and ensuring that there will always be a demand for it. I also know that I always associate gluten-free with vegans--an association that my singular vegan friend assures me is wrong and unfounded, but I am pretty sure is right and well-founded--and therefore feel that it is doubly crucial to lash out against this fad.

Because it is a fad. I know it is because signs advertising “gluten-free” food are becoming a more and more prevalent marker on the Vancouver landscape. Whenever something becomes popular in Vancouver, the fad either originated there and you immediately know that it’s stupid and that you will do well to avoid it (Lululemon; those stand-up paddleboards) or that it has come there to die (coffee culture; indie music; speciality beers) and it’s time to jump ship. And I also know that it’s a fad because, okay, whatever, maybe there are some people on this planet who can’t handle gluten, but there certainly are not enough to warrant the veritable plethora of menus catering to a gluten-free diet along Commercial (or “The Drive,” as I like to call it), or the gluten-free beer (there is a Montreal beer called Glutenberg, which is a really unfortunate waste of a great name), or the new gluten-free Rice Crispies. The worst part about these dietary fads is that they are always accompanied by the shaming of those who do not adhere to their bizarre and arbitrary rules, so now I am put in this weird position where I can’t help but feel bad (not guilty, but actually bad, as if I have some kind of defect) that my body can tolerate gluten. Is there a reason why I should be envious of people who can’t tolerate gluten?
Here is a picture of me at the social gathering in question. I think I will use
it again when I inevitably write about prunes because that's what my face
looks like. You might have noticed, as I just did, that there is a jar of salsa
behind me on the counter. To the best of my recollection, that salsa was not
served, otherwise I probably would have nimbly dipped corn chips into it,
careful not to get any of the chunks.
But to stay on point, of course there are other reasons to value the bun aside from just combatting the rising tide of gluten intolerance. That wise, old Hungarian sage was right: buns are a great companion for someone always on the go--small or not. The bun is the most highly evolved form of bread and is the most portable. Like a baguette, they are a self-contained unit, only without the unruly length and shape. (I honestly don’t understand the appeal of baguettes beyond making bruschetta, which I would obviously never do. But every time I go the grocery store in Montreal’s hipster heart, I see hordes of people pawing at the baguettes, and I think--although I can’t be sure--that it has something to do with being seen biking home with a baguette sticking out of their backpack. I can’t figure out why this is a good thing, but I think it might be because it suggests that the purchaser of that baguette also purchases cheese, and there is a certain amount of cultural and social currency that goes with buying cheese, which, in my heart of hearts, I wish I could cash in on.) Sliced bread is great when you’re at home (although I avoid unsliced loaves at all costs because they are so difficult to slice), but it’s not as portable as a bun and isn’t encased in crust, which usually serves to protect the bun from being crushed in a bag. The other problem with sliced bread is that it can be a pretty hefty commitment. Unless you freeze it, you have a relatively small window of time in which to eat it, and if you forget it in your cupboard when you go home for Christmas for two weeks, you are in for a really unpleasant surprise when you return. Of course buns mold too, but the point that I’m try to get at is that you can buy just one or two buns rather than committing to a whole bag of them. There is also something more acceptable about serving a bun (whether it be on a plane or a buffet table) than a slice of bread, and I believe that it is because while a slice of bread can only ever be part of a whole, a bun is its own single entity. I certainly don’t want to suggest that buns are the best form of bread for every occasion (obviously no one wants to substitute buns for toast), but they do have their merits and they deserve out praise and attention.
Bun on the run.
Friends, what if you find yourself at a social event
And the food table leaves you feeling like a sullen malcontent?
Don’t despair, don’t give up; take advice from Sally Lunn:
Forego everything else and go straight for the bun.
Savour that bun and act highfalutin:
It’s your God given duty to protect all the gluten
From the monsters who would try to take it from us
And turn gluten allergies into such a wide-reaching fuss
After all, allergies tell us something about our ability to survive--
There must be a theory about this to contrive?
Admittedly, I’m not the fittest condenser
So I’ll direct your attention to the works of Herbert Spencer.


  1. "Mold" is the American spelling, and since you can't be bothered to differentiate between Canada and the US, I don't see why I should be bothered to differentiate between the two spellings.

  2. I assume this is the final draft of your personal statement.