Comfort-Food: A Love Triangle with Dough, Cinnamon, and Sugar

Christmas morning, every Christmas morning, there were Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. No matter the rest of the gourmet breakfast my mother made — individual, hand-made omelets with Amish Cheddar and crispy home fries and twice baked potatoes and fruit salad with vanilla cream cheese dipping sauce — the little pillowed, white baker snuck his way into our kitchen.

Since I have celiac, and have also come to a certain understanding about the dangers (both health-wise and nature-wise) of processed foods >> Pillsbury cinnamon rolls have fallen out of the top spot of comfort foods. But they were so important to me as a child, that I still feel the need to honor them.

If you’ve never opened a roll of Pillsbury dough, here’s how it goes:

Pillsbury dough comes in these super compact tin and cardboard tube. What? You ask. Your comfort food used to come in a tube? Yes. It did. These tubes are feats of nature, the fact that we, as a nation, can fit 8 cinnamon rolls PLUS frosting into a tube the size of a travel coffee mug is amazing. Horrifying, and amazing. The tube has all the instructions for baking, plus a Box Top — which was extra special at the time I was baking these (in 4th grade).

So you’ve got this tube. How do you get to the goods? You peel the first layer of paper off from the tube. It is supposed to crack open automatically — it never does. At this point you’re standing with a naked tube, worried that maybe it will crack open at any second and you won’t be ready for it so you slam it into the side of the counter really hard and it breaks, spilling all the dough on the counter. Your mom yells at you. Such is the way of the Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls. There is really no way around it.

At age 9, I got bored at this point and went to open my stocking while my mother arranged the rolls on a greased glass pie pan, and put them into the oven for 9-11 minutes at 350 degrees. I only know these directions because I read them while I was cutting out the Box Top. I got a pack of pencils in my stocking, though!

Beep! Beep! Heaven has arrived, and me and my sister bum rush the kitchen for the privilege of icing the rolls. You should also bum rush whatever kitchen you are cooking these in because they are worth it. Pro tip: If you ice them too quickly, all the icing will soak into the roll — and then you’ll have a bunch of very soggy rolls and a bummer of a Christmas morning. 

Everyone in my family had a section of the rolls they liked the most. My mother liked the one that was the most cooked, my dad liked an outside one with a lot of icing, and me and my sister always, always split the middle roll. The middle roll is usually undercooked, soaks up the extra icing from the outside rolls, and is the true Arc de Triumph of breakfast pastries.

We had cinnamon rolls outside of Christmas on rare occasions, but the Christmas rolls were the best because everyone was there to eat them. And no, I can’t have them anymore because of my disease, but cinnamon rolls are still one of my favorite foods. Plus, the spirit of the roll exists whenever I cook for others. Cooking and eating should be exciting and collaborative, something that the Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls blessed upon my family.

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