The Bun

by Jan Hostyn

I couldn’t watch. I just couldn’t. So, like the true coward I am, I didn’t. Instead, before I could witness the inevitable disappointment and confusion hijack the glow of anticipation from my daughter’s eager face, I gingerly placed the sandwich next to her waiting glass of milk, did an abrupt half-turn and scurried out of the room. Before my feet had even managed to flee around the first corner, though, I heard it: the dreaded “Mom‚Ķ”

I knew it. I should have just tossed the darn thing out when I had the chance. But when I dug it out of the freezer – the furthest, iciest corner of the freezer, I might add – and plunked it primly in the middle of that old, green-ringed dinner plate, it looked okay. Pillowy, with a lovely golden hue, it actually looked more than okay. And, since this was the thing that had wrestled control of the latest manifestation of my daughter’s ever-changing taste buds, I figured it was worth a try. My heart did, anyway.

My brain, the one so often relegated to spectator status whenever my kids are involved, knew okay just wasn’t going to happen. This thing had a history far too complex for a mere morsel of food. The big blue eyes staring expectantly at me from across the room foolishly spurred me into action, though. I picked up my serrated knife, took a deep breath… and attacked.

You see, I was making a sandwich and that thing, the one triggering so much angst, was a once-lovely ciabatta bun. Once, many, many months and many, many adventures ago. Now, well, not-quite-solovely might be a more apt description.

It started its prolonged life on the heavenly island of Kaua’i, amidst tropical breezes, swaying palm trees and the most gorgeous sunny weather ever. We found it – and eleven other friends – in a humungous Costco-sized bag inside, yup, you guessed it, the Kaua’i Costco. So, really, these particular buns were never exactly stellar, having been birthed inside an industrialsized oven in an industrial-sized kitchen and all. But, compared to most of the other bread-like impostors we had run into during our vacation, they seemed pretty darn good.

And so began the bun’s adventure: into the shopping cart, through the checkout, into the back of our stifling hot truck, down the road for a 15-minute journey back to the condo, up four flights of stairs – elevators are not my friends – and, fi nally, into the cavernously empty and waiting freezer.

Each day select buns were singled out, defrosted and then devoured: during a brief boogie boarding break at the beach, or while relaxing by the pool, or en route to our next adventure. And, during the process, they became, to my daughter, the best buns ever (the sun, the surf, the sand, the lazy days, the lack of school could have had something to do with it, too).

They became such impossibly good buns that a few even had to make the journey home with us. Funny thing: they just wouldn’t take no for an answer. A privileged few were singled out to remain securely stashed in the freezer and there they sat, patiently awaiting their next adventure: the plane ride back to snowy Edmonton. That journey alone would have been enough to tax the quality of the buns but no, these lucky buns had even more to look forward to. Thanks to an unexpected little tsunami threat, these buns were treated to a pre-trip jaunt, kind of like a trial run.

Yup, bright and early one Saturday morning we had to evacuate our condo due to an impending tsunami. Three days worth of essentials – including the coveted buns, of course – made their way down the stairs, into the truck and up the hill to the designated emergency shelter. Thankfully, the tsunami turned out to be nothing more than a little swell and so, six hours later, there we were, lugging all our stuff – including the buns – back up the stairs. Nicely defrosted by this time, the buns went back into the freezer, only to be pulled out again the very next morning to be stuffed into a suitcase.

Off to the airport they went, where they were treated to a place of honour in the bowels of a lumbering Boeing 737. After a six-hour jaunt across the Pacific, four more hours lounging around the Seattle airport, another quick hour-and-a-half fl ight to Edmonton and a half-hour car ride from the airport, our family – including the new additions – was home. Finally, a hop, skip and jump down the stairs and into the freezer. Whew. Over 15 hours and 5000 kilometres later, the buns were safely home.

So, after being frozen, defrosted, frozen, defrosted again and then frozen once more, well, little wonder I had less than a smidgen of faith in the buns. Oh, and this particular bun, the one in the suspect sandwich – well, the poor thing had kind of been forgotten and had languished in our freezer for months, months, after it was so lovingly placed there.

Given that history, I braced for the worst as I turned towards the “Mom” that was launched in my direction.

“Mom, this is the best sandwich ever.” Go figure. If only I could get her to form the same kind of emotional attachment to the dreaded broccoli.

Jan Hostyn is an Edmonton writer who thinks everything tastes better in Hawaii.