Monday, June 11, 2012

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

It's a well known phrase: "(insert thing here) is the best thing since sliced bread!" But the other day, that phrase got me to thinking, how great is sliced bread? Is it really the greatest thing ever?

I bet there were some people who didn't even like sliced bread when it first came out, I thought. Then I wondered why someone wouldn't like sliced bread. It seems like such an obviously excellent and time-saving invention.

Imagine, however, if you were someone who ate home-baked bread. You're used to cutting your own slices, and you can cut a thicker or thinner slice as you prefer. If you want a big hunk of bread to take with you, you can cut a big hunk of bread. If you want thinner slices for toast, you can make the slices thinner. It's a matter of control, being able to slice one's own bread, and I could see how some people would not want to give up that control.

I envision a man, a rough burly farmer, sitting bent over the kitchen table, a knife in one hand and a fork in the other, staring at a loaf of bread. "They can't tell me how to slice my bread!"

I also wonder about the impact sliced bread has had on our society, and particularly on the way we use bread. Today, I would argue that most people in the US use bread primarily for making sandwiches. We buy bread, we make sandwiches. We make toast too, I suppose. Sandwiches and toast. But anyone who bakes their own bread knows there's so much more you can do with bread than make sandwiches. I'm not sure what those things are (because I don't make my own bread), but I wonder if the advent of sliced bread has also brought about an advent of fewer uses for bread: we're all stuck so much in the mindset that bread = sliced bread, and that is now the norm.

I happen to love bread, but I have found I don't often like sliced bread, the stuff you can buy at the store. I like bread that I can enjoy whether I'm having it plain or with butter or as a sandwich. I like bread you have to cut yourself. I wouldn't say I'm not grateful for sliced bread though; it's good for what it's good for. And the well-known phrase is certainly better than "the best thing since sliced pasteurized processed cheese food sticks", so I'll go with it.

1 comment:

ol' Bob said...


The best thing since toilet paper?