We eat white bread in my house. I feel a little bad about that. Shouldn’t we eat some kind of whole grain or darker bread? I grew up on Roman Meal.
Being “white bread” is an insult. It’s meant to imply being an unquestioning consumer, someone who takes what they are given and does not have their own personality or culture.
It’s true that most grocery store have a massive selection of several types of mass produced white bread. American bread is a very specific product. Germany, France, Africa and Russia have a very different understanding of bread.
I remember when my friend from Russia was looking through by cupboard and found the Poulsbo bread. She argued with me, very sincerely, that it was cake. And Poulsbo had whole sunflower seeds in it!
In the 19th century, most American households consumed bread made in the home. It was the woman’s job to take the bread from dough, through rising and kneading and baking and then to the table.
At that time, food safety was still a big issue. Food got transported around, and you bought at your own risk.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair described a horrific environment where animals were slaughtered and butchered to be sold as meat. They described sick and infected animals being slaughtered in one scene, and even described how one of the workers fell into the sausage machine and no one stopped production.
I’m pretty sure it was exaggerated, but after it was published in 1906 people were horrified. And that is how the Food and Drug Administration was born.
At this point in our lives, we feel confident that the grocery store will provide us edible food. We all eat a lot of it! But at the turn of the 20th century, that was not the case. When people saw dark bread, not only were they afraid of insects being part of the food (EWWW!) but there was the issue of mold.
A particularly nasty kind of mold on rye bread could kill you.
So. White bread became a symbol of health and purity.
Look! It’s white. You can see for yourself if it’s pure.
It was a big deal when wrapped bread was presented to the buying public. The loaves that previously were only trusted if they were made in your own home? Well, you could trust these loaves of bread. They are pure white, and no one has even TOUCHED them. See? They are wrapped and sanitary.
Wait for it…
THEN in 1928 they invented sliced bread. And boy was that great! Sliced bread still stands as a waterline for great achievements.
What could be better than pure white, wrapped and SLICED bread?
Women were freed from the tedious chore of making bread. Their families could eat and be healthy.
People could live their lives. And right then in history, their lives were all about the Great Depression and then World War 2.
With all that excitement, the fantastic achievement of pure white wholesome food lost its power. They had become part of the landscape.
And the landscape was changing. Counterculture was a thing. They beatniks and their disciples the Hippies despised white bread.
If you had any kind of personality, if you were woke at all you wouldn’t eat that plastic mass-produced Wonder Bread. Make your own! Use whole wheat!
Then then new movement was for more natural foods, and Silent Spring made everyone aware of pesticides.
So, the pure while food movement was superseded by a new green and brown food movement.
But the societal awareness and resulting government oversight of food safety and handling is what led us to be able to confidently demand new types of food.
My friend recently drank a Naked Juice from a convenience store and got food poisoning. Poor thing, but how ironic!
I can laugh about it because I don’t have to worry about her dying from this. In America, we have created a marketplace for food that is safe and secure. People die very seldom from food they buy
That might be a better invention than sliced bread.