The European Union, which was formed in 1993 to create a single currency and common market that could compete with the United States, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for having contributed to the advancement of "reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe." For a continent that once waged the Hundred Years' War, this was no small feat.
But during the recent holiday season, somebody at EU HQ found out that, if consumed in sufficient quantities, Danish cinnamon rolls were toxic. By Christmas, there wasn't a danish in all of Denmark that the EU food police hadn't marked with the threat of death. Cinnamon rolls were banned in Denmark and in peril of yeasty excommunication across the continent.
In bakeries and patisseries all over Europe, this was an unleavened catastrophe. "It's the end of the cinnamon roll as we know it," mourned Hardy Christensen, head of the Danish Baker's Association, to London's Daily Telegraph.
Now a terrifying question arises: could a cinnamon roll crackdown come to California's nanny state? What would happen to the already dismal retention rate at the San Jose Police Department if there were no fluffy cinnamon-infused cakes at Stan's or Rollo's to help with stationary crime-busting?
There is no way of predicting the legislative fiats of the U.S. Congress, of course, and the California Legislature doesn't reconvene until Jan. 6. But the prospect of a life without that golden brown scroll of thick, chewy dough to unfurl -- the amazing lightness of its texture belied by the roll's groaning heft -- is simply too much to contemplate.
Spice experts -- yes, there are spice experts -- were quick to point to the differences between poisonous supermarket cinnamon in European rolls and the high-test Indonesian imports used in America. It appears that if the EU wants to wave its Gallic nose over our sticky buns, it will first have to pry the Cinnabon from our cold, dead, ooey gooey fingers.
The problem with Denmark's beloved kanelsnegler is coumarin, a naturally occurring toxic agent in cassia. But as a Cinnabon spokesperson in Atlanta noted dryly, the international chain infuses its rolls -- which resemble sofa pillows with icing -- with Makara, "a proprietary cinnamon from a tree in Indonesia." Among the company's many important innovations in bun technology was removing the chokingly dry outer ring of the bun to create a product that's almost all proprietary cinnamon and icing, dubbed Center of the Roll.
Norwegians also received a stern Christmas warning from that country's food safety authorities about cinnamon rolls, known there as skillingsboller, advising that "heavy users of cinnamon should limit their intake." In response, Sweden reclassified its iced spice cakes, known askanenbullar, as a seasonal dish, with a permitted cinnamon level more than three times higher than Denmark's, at 50mg per kilo. Other EU countries replied to the ban by quickly ignoring it.
According to the Telegraph, a study for the U.K.'s Food Standards Agency found that the average exposure to coumarin in Britain was 55 times less than the EU "tolerable daily limit" of 0.1mg per kilo of body weight. "An average person would have to eat so many Danish pastries in order to be affected," said Paul Nuttall, the deputy leader of the U.K. Independence Party, "they would certainly die of obesity before being hurt by a low level of cinnamon."
But at places such as Greenlee's Bakery, famous for the sticky cinnamon bread it sells on The Alameda in San Jose, apprehension had to be taking the edge off the sugar high. The concern may have remained unspoken, but on the inside, where people's arteries were hardening, it went something like this:
First they came for the cinnamon roll, and no one spoke out because there were also bear claws available. Then they came for the Cinnabon stands at the airports, and no one spoke out because there were Cinnabon stands at every mall within a mile of the airport. Then they came for my cinnamon roll, and I had so much stuffed in my mouth that there was no one left to speak for me.
Contact Bruce Newman at 408-920-5004. Follow him at twitter.com/BruceNewmanTwit