When it comes to nostalgia, it seems there is nothing more evocative than the gooey loveliness of a warm UBC cinnamon bun. Whenever UBC posts something on its social media pages about the sacred snail‑shaped dough, it prompts alumni to share memories and express their deepest cravings:
“I like the middle pieces that haven’t touched the edge of the pan. I used to take the flipper and dig them out of the centre when a fresh pan was put out at the sub.”
“That was lunch many days!”
“This is why I am always on the lookout for cinnamon buns.
While at UBC, it was deeply imprinted onto my taste buds.”
“Bun and hot chocolate before first class. Smell of lectures.”
You can almost hear the accompanying sighs. The buns are sticky, both literally and figuratively. It must be something to do with the mysterious linkages between smell, taste, emotion and memory.
Some readers, then, may be shocked to learn that the recipe hasn’t always been the same. The original, used from 1954, was never written down, so alumni attending UBC after 1971 – when original bun baker Grace Hasz retired – enjoyed a slightly different confectionery experience. People have strong opinions as to when the bun was at its pillowy peak, but in terms of batches baked, its heyday was during the 80s and 90s, when production reached a whopping 200 dozen daily. Today it’s a fraction of that.
Considering the campus population wasn’t nearly as big in the 80s and 90s, yesterday’s students must have been consuming thousands more empty calories per capita than today’s. Maybe the Millennials are spurning all that refined sugar in favour of healthier snacks (missing the fact entirely that cinnamon buns are good for one’s mental health). Or perhaps there is simply more competition from trendy newcomers – I’m told the matcha-flavoured, soft-serve frozen yogurt is very popular. I doubt the bun will be usurped any time soon, though. Yogurt just seems too unsubstantial to become a lasting UBC tradition. Not nearly sticky enough.
In April, UBC Food Services ran a two-day pop-up kitchen in the student residence of Orchard Commons, offering cinnamon buns and other goodies as a sweet reward for the end of classes. Astonishingly, it was the first time some of the students had ever sampled UBC’s revered delicacy. The buns sold out on both days, perhaps an indication that they are about to enjoy a renaissance.
Just in case this leads to any shortages, you can always bake your own (see That Cinnamony Goodness).
But if baking is not your thing, then you’ll just have to get your buns back on campus.