Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

All Hail the Common Bun, the Grace of Our Nation

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

All Hail the Common Bun, the Grace of Our Nation

Article excerpt

I've recently discovered a new bakery on my morning perambulation with the dog. Well, new to me, anyway: it claims to have been in business since 1948, a lone old-timer in a row of chains and tatty minimarts.

I'm not sure why I didn't notice it before but I have certainly been making up for lost time--it's a rare day I pass by without popping in for a little something, with the result that my body can now be said to be beach-ready in much the same way as Moby Dick's.

It's not just the keenly priced selection of Jewish loaves, or the pleasant prospect of a little chat with the ladies in their pinnies, that keeps me going back, but the magnificent window display of sticky buns: tightly curled Chelseas, sloppily topped iced fingers, even the odd hot cross number still lurking next to the Tottenham cakes (a brave choice in this part of north London) and cut-price gingerbread men.

Although the place appears pleasingly impervious to passing fads (this is definitely coconut macaroon rather than designer macaron territory), its plump buns caught my attention precisely because they seem to be enjoying a bit of a moment.

A few years ago, the Great British Bun was in danger of extinction, overshadowed by showier, sugarier rivals such as the cupcake and the triple chocolate muffin, but then, like a well-proofed dough, it rose again. The Nordic cinnamon bun, once held up as the buttery, bronzed face of Scandi-chic, got knocked back in favour of our own sweet, yeast-based heritage.

Buns were suddenly big on The Great British Bake Off, where currants and glace cherries out-twinkled even Paul Hollywood, and also on the menu at such voguish spots as the east London Lily Vanilli Bakery (which makes a mean Hackney bun with stout-soaked fruit) and the much-lauded Middle Eastern cafe Honey 8c Co, whose pistachio and sour cherry Fitzrovia version has the critics dribbling. …

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