the difference between rolls and buns

I am intrigued by the use of the English language. Since I have moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland a little over five years ago, I have noticed some trends amongst the “From Here’s” (as opposed to the “Come Here’s”).

First, there is an over-use of the preposition “to”.  I’m not going to explain this one, you’ll just have to listen closer to its usage in conversations. I have also noticed how people on the Eastern Shore refer to hamburger and hot dog buns wrongly as rolls. Last night my wife, Tara, asked me if I was going to eat my tomato sandwich on a “roll”.  I replied, “No, I’m going to have it on a bun”.  She said there wasn’t a difference at which point I directed her to the printing on the bag: “Hamburger Bun”.  So, my point was proven incontrovertibly.  She proceeded to post a sarcastic comment on Twitter which also went to Facebook, which has generated quite the interest.

Now, to resolve the confusion of my wife and the many Eastern Shore folks like her, here is the difference between rolls and buns:

  • A roll is a type of bread which is a side item at a mid-day or evening meal appropriately eaten with butter, honey, jelly, or jam.
  • A bun is a type of bread specifically designed to hold meat (and in the case of my example, a tomato slice) and may be eaten throughout the day. A “honey bun” is not a bun, it is mislabeled, and it is a dessert, not a side item.

For further enlightenment continue reading for my explanation of breads:

  • There is a presupposition that determines my evaluation of all breads: the biscuit is the chief of breads. It is a type of bread that is appropriate for all meals of the day. It can be eaten with butter, jam, jelly, honey, marmalade or it can contain chicken, beef, pork, lamb, or fish and thus is superior to all breads in its utility as well as in taste and aesthetics.  It is the first choice of bread for anyone with a discerning palate. All other breads are inferior.
  • Bread is a food made from flour, if I have to explain this to you that means you are from Delaware.
  • A baguette is a French bread similar to a roll in its purpose and inferior to the biscuit.
  • A croissant is a French bread similar to a biscuit in its purpose but significantly inferior.
  • A tortilla is a South American bread similar to a biscuit and perhaps the closest thing in the world to being a biscuit, but is still inferior. My Honduran friends would vehemently disagree with me about the relationship of biscuits to tortillas.
  • CornBread is a type of bread made from corn rather than flour (hence the name).  It is quite tasty but less versatile than the biscuit because it often crumbles during the eating process. It is appropriate as a side item with butter, jelly, or honey, but not with meat.
  • A Bagel is a type of bread primarily eaten for breakfast or lunch. It is inferior because it looks like a doughnut and disappoints in its taste. It holds condiments, meats, and vegetables quite well which has given rise to the bagel sandwich, bagel bites, bagel chips, etc. Although extremely versatile, it does not stand on its own like a biscuit can, so again, inferior.
  • Naan is an Indian bread similar to both a biscuit and a tortilla in purpose, although not in shape, and although close, is still inferior to both.
  • An English Muffin is similar to a biscuit, but worthless if a biscuit is available.

Don’t bother checking Wikipedia because I didn’t.  That’s about all the types of bread that I know.

Disclaimer: This is all in good humor and in no way to I intend on offending anyone (especially people from Delaware), I simply find the regional differences in English amusing.


2 Responses to “the difference between rolls and buns”

  1. 1 Brian Dooley
    December 22, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I found this post after a similar discussion with co-workers not five minutes ago.It was a delight to read and to share with them, and I will be following your blog. Maybe I should check if you’re even writing it anymore…but no. Impulse decisions must be adhered to. Well played, biscuit master. Well played, indeed.

  2. May 30, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I disagree with your idea of a bun being “specifically designed to hold meat” (or any other extras). You may say a honey bun is not a bun, but there are plenty of other sweet breads referred to as buns, spice bun, cinnamon buns (also called cinnamon rolls).
    It really depends on where you live. People from some places refer to certain things by other names. For example, Americans chips are British crisps, and British chips are American french fries. You wouldn’t go over to England and “correct” them on their term for the food item.

    Here is a tidbit from another website that explains this further:
    “customarily we do use “bun” and “roll” to mean different things. A hard crust usually makes it a roll. It’s also ordinarily a roll if it has a filling, although one person’s cinnamon roll might be another’s cinnamon bun, depending on where they live. In Britain, where a bun is round, sweet, and cake-like, the traditional Easter pastry is always a hot-crossed bun. American hot dogs usually come on a bun that’s long and narrow, but
    hamburgers are less particular about the name of that into which they are sandwiched.”
    Source — http://opossumsally.homestead.com/Cooking/Tips/BunsOrRolls.html

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