An Ode To The Thunder Bay Persian Roll: The Sweetest Taste Of Home

When I went to school as a young girl in Thunder Bay, I remember clutching a loonie in my hand every Wednesday as I made my way down to the gymnateria for Persian Day, hoping to beat the rush for this sweet treat, a sweet cinnamon-bun/donut-like confection with pastel pink icing. Then as I climbed the junior high ranks, I was asked to help sell them on Wednesdays. While this meant I got to leave class early to set up, it also meant that one Persian would go missing before we even began selling, and I mysteriously, and completely coincidentally, no longer had an appetite for my lunch.

Sorry for opening with a flashback — I just wanted to illustrate what these Persians (not the people, cat, nor rug) meant to my childhood. In short, the need for them led me to crime.

The idea behind the Persian is not innovative, yet somehow it is deemed a cultural treasure and one that apparently cannot be imitated outside Thunder Bay, Ontario’s borders. It’s a large cinnamon roll-like donut thing topped with a generous layer of pink frosting. Through the years, local Thunder Bay bakeries have offered the Persian with blueberry or even chocolate frosting, a popular choice for people passing through this lovely city because of its familiarity but I urge you to go pink or go home. The purists prefer it pink, whether that pink is raspberry or strawberry, a much heated debate even to this day.

So why is it indigenous to Thunder Bay? The lore behind the origin of its name certainly has nothing to do with it, being named after U.S. general John Pershing during the First World War… in fact, it just raises more questions. This is usually the question I get from people not from Thunder Bay. As for the others? Well, we just accepted it. Its origin, as far as I know or care, is simply rooted in my childhood. And if someone does have a reasonable explanation, that’s cool, feel free to share that knowledge. To me, it just never mattered.

Once I got over my Persian klepto-spree, I actually never gave Persians a second thought; they were just there. It wasn’t until I moved out of Thunder Bay that I needed to cling to them and tell everyone I met in Toronto all about them. Persians were that piece of home that no one else had besides other Thunder Bayians, and we needed to share it with others, but it would always remain ours.

This, of course, led to a high demand from co-workers to bring some back every time I ventured up north to see my family. It was always my pleasure because the joy it brought to the office was a thing of beauty. So a trip to The Persian Man had to be pencilled in with every visit, and I had to refrain from skimming one Persian from this batch, surely someone would notice this time.

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