In response to the “… next best thing since sliced bread …” challenge, I researched the “sliced bread” phenomenon, the inventor of the sliced bread machine, [Otto Frederick Rohwedder, from Davenport, Iowa, invented the Rohwedder Bread Slicer, in 1912] and the inevitable (but necessary) wrapper enhancement. it must have truly been a great thing in its time and marked not only a revolution in consumer products distribution and sales, but also heralded the burgeoning growth of the automatic machinery era.
As an engineer with strong roots in consumer products and pharmaceutical industries, I’m no stranger to the benefits of technology and I maintain an appreciation and fascination of such “modern marvels”. Admittedly, though, there is a little voice in the back of my mind that is straining to be heard. its clear (in retrospect) from my frequent and near-obsessive forays into artisan bread-making, that I’ve succumbed to the ‘back to basics‘ message of my inner voice.
Regardless of how often I punch away at the ‘needing-to-be-kneaded’ mound of dough, the satisfaction never wanes. Even more fulfilling is the limitless, creative variety at my fingertips: to herb or not to herb; cheese-filled or olive-filled; sesame or plain; brushed with egg white, water or nothing; salt crust or cheese; whole grain, rye or white;…or just a plain ole’ crusty baguette. All are equally enticing, and all within the grasp of my ten tiny fingers.
After mixing, kneading, rising, proofing, punching, rising (again), shaping, rising (yes, once more) and baking, the house is engulfed by an aroma and warmth that could cause even the grumpiest of curmudgeons to swoon. Hand carving the first piece of freshly baked taste or ripping off the first uneven chunk from the heel of the loaf, and hearing that inimitable crust-crunch, is an incomparable sensory delight.
It may appear that I am digressing wildly from the subject at hand, in my treatise on the next best thing since sliced bread, but I’ve reached my undeniable conclusion: unsliced bread takes the cake!
Sliced bread? Maybe not so great after all, when viewed through the lens of our oft-ignored longing to return to a simpler time, as penned beautifully many centuries ago:
…A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread-and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness…
From Omar Khayyam
~ Edward Fitzgerald