All The Buns Are Blank

Damn! Remember when these buns had sesame seeds?

On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, I found myself concerned about my own mental health and well-being. The issue arose when I grabbed some “Classic Hamburger Buns” off the shelf, which I use to handle my burger-related needs, and indeed the needs of all manner of patty-based sandwiches:

Buns without sesame seeds[Photo credit: P. Kafasis]

I’ve purchased this product for many years. The Atomic Age design of the package, particularly the colorful ketchup and mustard, has long brought me joy. However, on this day, I was less than joyful. When I looked carefully at the buns, I found myself concerned. I felt almost as though I had slipped into another dimensions. Something wasn’t right. Something was missing. These buns were wholly unadorned. But…they’d always had sesame seeds on them…hadn’t they?

Flummoxed, I spent an unreasonable amount of time perusing the shelves. I thought perhaps there were two varieties of bun, one with sesame seeds and one without. I came up empty, however. I put the package in the top of my shopping cart and attempted to move on. I distracted myself by thinking about how the cart’s top shelf is a great place to put delicate items, so long as you don’t have a toddler in there. If you do have a toddler in there, it’s probably the absolute worst place to put your delicate items.

I couldn’t shake it though. Those damned buns were missing their sesame seeds, I was sure of it. I marched over to the in-store computer, and attempted to find the product. As I jabbed my finger at that laggy touchscreen, a helpful employee asked if he could assist me instead. I explained the predicament, and I saw his reality give out as well. Now we were both adrift in a sea of confusion.

Fortunately, the store had an internal system he could consult. In just a few seconds, he found a message which gave us our answer. In 2023, the FDA added sesame to their group of major food allergens.1 As a result, TJ’s had indeed denuded their buns. Vindication! With that, I checked out and headed home.

Later, as I tried to describe this unsettling experience to a friend, I tracked down a helpful reference image in an ancient product review:

Buns, with sesame seeds![Photo credit: Brenda Sickles]

Ah, the buns as they once were. Look at them. They look spectacular! If you inspect carefully, you can see that Trader Joe’s tweaked the package every so slightly following the product change. The buns are now described as simply “Soft and slightly sweet”, with the previous text of “topped with sesame seeds” having been removed.

As I imagine some readers will know, the title for this post comes from the late, great Mitch Hedberg. The track “Sesame Seeds”, from his album “Mitch All Together” is surely the greatest 60 seconds of stand-up comedy ever performed on this particular subject. You can listen to the full track here, but here’s a partial transcript:

I think they could take sesame seeds off the market and I wouldn’t even care. I can’t imagine five years from now saying “Damn, remember sesame seeds? What happened? All the buns are blank!”

I flatter myself to think that Mitch and I are a bit alike in having a good, but off-kilter, sense of humor. However, it’s clear that at least in this area, we differ greatly. They took sesame seeds off the market, or at least off one specific product, and I very much cared.


  1. This group was formerly referred to as the “Big 8”. The other items are: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. ↩︎