New Hampshire Slanguage: Bulkie

No, I’m not describing your ski sweater or jacket….

nor the oversized muscles of certain weight lifters.

A “bulkie” is a large, thick sandwich bun, commonly found in New England, that has a distinctive five-petaled, rose shape design.

Folks living outside of the New England area might call it a bread roll, dinner roll, kaiser roll (which is not the same thing), or hamburger bun.  But in New Hampshire we call it a “bulkie.” [Some would state that calling it a “bulkie roll” is redundant, similiar to saying, “I’m wearing a blouse shirt.”]

Wikipedia denies that the origin of this food stuff is known, however the source was easy to track down.  The term’s origin is the same as that of the Polish breadstuff called a “bulki.”

The people of Poland had been immigrating to the United States prior to the early 1900’s. However by the early twentieth century, textile mills in New Hampshire were booming, and more workers were needed.  The new arrivals to the United States brought with them a thick sandwich bun, known as a “bulki” in their native land.

Back then lunch pails or buckets (the precursor of the lunch box) were as common as computers are today. In New Hampshire, as all over the country, factory workers carried buckets with their day’s worth of nourishment. Bulkies made it through the long, sometimes overheated day without becoming too soggy or unappetizing.

Although already being sold by local bakeries by the 1930s, by the 1950s “Bulkie rolls” were prominently advertised in New Hampshire newspapers.

Nowadays even the famous Fanny Farmer knows that  bulkies make the best hamburgers… The Revised Fanny Farmer Cookbook” recipe, entitled, The Perfect Hamburger lists “bulkie” rolls in the receipe, as its crowning glory.

For those who would like to bake their own, I found two different recipes for traditional Polish “bulki.” [See Recipe 1 – See Recipe 2]


Interesting Reading: the Story of Polish Americans (by the New Hampshire Historical Society-PDF)

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2 Responses to New Hampshire Slanguage: Bulkie

  1. Bulkie spelled “bulke” is a Yiddish word meaning a “bread roll.” I am writing a book “Ghetto to Ghetto: Yiddish and Jive in Everyday Life

    • Alan Levitan says:

      Bravo! All the Jewish families of my youth, in the Bronx, ate “bulkes.” It is indeed a Yiddish word and was ridiculously transformed–via mispronunciation of its transliteration– to “bulkie” as if the volume of the roll were the issue. It isn’t bulky at all, and it’s not a “bulkie roll” (as Widipedia would have it)! Thank you for your comment. What nonsense that it’s a New England roll that’s rather bulky! It may indeed be Polish as well as Jewish, but all the Russian-Jewish and Latvian-Jewish immigrant families I knew in New York as a child knew it was a Yiddish word (pronounced “boolkeh,” not “Bulkie”).

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