Cinnamon buns by the roaster full

By Jan Hostyn.

My kitchen cupboards are full of treasures: a plastic Little Mermaid cup with little fish that actually bob up and down, a bright pink Minnie Mouse placemat, a tiny silver spoon sporting a chubby elephant on its handle — some of the absolute essentials without which my daughters simply couldn’t make it through an entire meal.

I was a much simpler kid. As long as I got fed, I think I would have been content using my fingers to scoop food off the kitchen floor.

There was a particular roaster I was partial to. A run-of-the-mill, slightly chipped enamel roaster, actually. Sure, its pallid yellow exterior and jaunty red handles did make it slightly avant-garde for its time, but it definitely wouldn’t have won any awards in a roaster beauty contest.

Yet, a glimpse of that old roaster was enough to get my stomach rumbling and my lips smacking, as that unassuming roaster would be stuffed full of quite possibly the most glorious cinnamon buns ever, a mountain of buttery, sugary, sticky goodness.

When my mom baked, she really baked. The concept of a mere dozen was completely out of her grasp. This meant she was forever searching for homes large enough to store the spoils of her baking marathons. Her home of choice for leftover cinnamon buns was always this particular roaster.

And, if you had ever met one of my mom’s cinnamon buns, you would appreciate the logic behind her choice.

It started with what went into those giant cinnamon buns.

Gazing around our kitchen as my mom hauled things out of cupboards, you might think you’d stumbled into the bulk section of your local grocery store. Out came a 20-pound bag of potatoes (the secret ingredient), a carton of eggs, tubs of homemade butter, a jug of milk, a canister of sugar, a Tupperware full of raisins and a whopping bag of flour.

Oh yes, and yeast: good old traditional, slow-rising, time-consuming yeast. I’m not sure if quick-rise was even an option back then, not that it would’ve mattered. There’s no way my mother would have welcomed it into our kitchen.

Since massive amounts of ingredients do not lend themselves well to the tiny little mixing bowls that come with stand mixers, everything was done by hand — stirring, mixing, kneading; rising, rolling, spreading, cutting, and more rising.

By the end of the day, we had heaps of yeasty, cinnamon-scented swirls of rapture covering pretty much every surface that could be temporarily transformed into a cinnamon bun holding area.

These weren’t just any cinnamon buns, mind you — creatures might be a more accurate description. If you had put one of them next to my child-sized head, it would definitely be advantage cinnamon bun.

They were utterly delicious, and we always demolished far more than we should have in a single day. That barely put a dent in their numbers.

Although my mom used her freezer for a great many things, cinnamon buns were not part of that group. But they needed to go somewhere. Since these cinnamon-bun creatures were so big and there were so many of them (and our Tupperware didn’t come in size gargantuan), my mom got creative — hence, the roaster.

It didn’t matter that it wasn’t airtight and didn’t exactly do a stellar job of keeping the buns fresh. Fried the next day, they were almost better than fresh.

That roaster now inhabits a
shelf in my home, but its cinnamon-bun-holding days are long past. I believe in freezers and restraint. Now it holds the caramel popcorn I present my dad with every year on his birthday. After its lofty history, I could never relegate it to the mundane world of simply roasting.

Jan Hostyn does roast, just never in that roaster.