First came the donut burger. Then came the lettuce burger. The atrocity commonly referred to as KFC’s Double Down made its debut. The ramen burger arrived. Just yesterday, a new arrival to the East Village, Yonekichi, announced that one of its menu items will be a Rice Burger, meat sandwiched between two browned patties of white rice. Good people, the hamburger bun is under attack.
Why does such an unassuming piece of bread create such vitriol, such loathing among a populace? Yes, it contains gluten. Yes, that elusive monster carbohydrate lurks in its depths. Yes, it can be too thin or too thick, either failing to adequately sop up the hamburger juices or providing an unnecessary bready crust around the grilled object of desire. But friends, New Yorkers, foodies, lend me your ears: hamburger buns are not that bad.
It’s no mystery why the beloved bun is under attack. Paleo, Atkins, gluten-free, even South Beach all squirm in horror at the prospect of the processed hamburger bun, that receptacle of barbecue. It is the great symbol of the anti-diet, that extra you must purge to achieve a Bikini Body ™
I don’t mean to diminish people with legitimate dietary concerns. You do you. Nor am I advocating that you go on an all-hamburger bun diet. That can’t be good for you. But it seems to me that the hamburger bun has been unfairly demonized while other elements of the process—the giant wad of red meat, for instance—have skated by relatively unscathed. It is as if you will negate the caloric value of the whole meal by its omission or substitution. It’s just not so. There has been no such vendetta against the cone part of ice cream cones, or even the hot dog bun.
Surely a nice potato bun or even an English muffin trumps the potentially problematic strands of ramen or grains of rice pose, just integrity-wise? I am all for culinary innovation. I will eat almost anything once. But the constant search for the new hamburger bun is a pox on us all. Eating a hamburger on a donut ruins both the hamburger and the donut.
The hamburger bun is already almost a perfect object. A well-made bun allows us to dispense with utensils, prevents mustard or relish from sullying barbecue duds, allows food to be fast and unfussy. It is the unsung hero of picnics, rooftop grilling, pool parties. Let’s not overthink this. Let’s not require more steps for the enjoyment of comfort food. Let’s leave the hamburger bun alone.