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July 7, 2008

Nothing Better Has Happened Since
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:31 PM * 99 comments

Today, July 7th, is the 80th anniversary of sliced bread.

The Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Missouri, put pre-sliced bread on sale on the 7th of July, 1928. At the time they advertised it as being the best thing since wrapped bread.

“As one considers this new service one cannot help but be won over to a realization of the fact that here indeed is a type of service which is sound, sensible and in every way a progressive refinement in Bakers bread service.

“There is no crumbling and no crushing of the loaf and the result is such that the housewife can well experience a thrill of pleasure when she first sees a loaf of this bread with each slice the exact counterpart of its fellows.”

Comments on Nothing Better Has Happened Since:
#1 ::: JimR ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 10:00 PM:

I know I feel a thrill of pleasure when I see each identical slice...except for the heels.
Those rebellious little so-and-sos.

One of the things that really hit me as bizarre here in Japan was seeing loaves of bread--not like French loaves, or Italians loaves, but plain old white-as-the-Osmonds bread--unsliced on the bakers' shelves. Who on EARTH would want to try to cut that spongy stuff at home?

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 10:03 PM:

Speaking of today, does anyone else ever have the experience of discovering that you've known two separate facts for years, but never put them together side by side? As I have known for years that July 7 is...the birthday of (1) Robert A. Heinlein and (2) Ringo Starr.

#3 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 10:14 PM:

Patrick, add to that 'Double Threat' Radcliffe from the Negro Leagues (pitcher/catcher). Satchel Paige's birthday was yesterday. There was a piece on Radcliffe up over at Kos, or I wouldn't have known. (They mentioned Heinlein, too.)

I remember going in to the local bakery with my mother and seeing them slice the bread with the machine; the bread sits on a little shelf. Then they'd slide a bag over the loaf and shelf and slide it back off with the loaf inside and ready to close (this was in the twist-tie days). It still seems like a really neat machine.

(Bread doesn't slice well when it's warm; you have to let it cool so it's firm enough to slice without tearing or mashing. Bread knives work best if they have serrated blades.)

#4 ::: Jon Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 10:23 PM:

A question I've had for many years: what was the best thing before sliced bread?

#5 ::: Jon Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 10:26 PM:

Whoops. Left the leading word "Answering" off of #4. Anyways, this does does invite the question of what the best thing was before wrapped bread.

#6 ::: m.k. ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 10:31 PM:

JimR @ #1, are those loaves the near-perfect rectangular type? With a serrated bread knife, I find that they slice quite neatly, thanks to the sturdy crust (much thicker and more substantial than the paper-thin stuff on, say, Wonder Bread). All the same, I prefer to buy it thick-sliced (the Japanese-style bakeries in Hawai'i that carry sandwich bread often have it as thin-slice and thick-slice).

#7 ::: ebear ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 10:33 PM:

Jon @#5:

Whisk(e)y.

#8 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 10:49 PM:

JimR @ 1:
I'd guess that some Japanese bakeries follow the earlier U.S. practice of slicing their bread at the point/time of sale -- partly because it keeps better unsliced.

But I think that article (or Jim's heading) might be misleading. The date mentioned appears to be that of selling pre-packaged sliced bread (a practice that must've spread rapidly; my earliest childhood memories, only three or four years after that, are that bread always came sliced, in factory-sealed wrappings).

I'm reasonably certain that bread-slicing machines were common long before that, and the only innovation was the place in the distribution chain that they were used.

#9 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 11:02 PM:

We've only had sliced bread for 80 years??? I would have thought bread-cutting technology would go a bit further back. That's over-weirding my pudding.

#10 ::: hamletta ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 11:57 PM:

I love the writing style: "...each slice the counterpart of its fellows."

It seems so quaint, yet it wasn't written that long ago.

I guess this explains why I never got into ad copywriting.

#11 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:06 AM:

JimR @1 -- Yeah. Why can't each slice have its own heel? That would be so much better.

#12 ::: JimR ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:28 AM:

#6, yes--they are, in fact, perfectly rectangular. Almost eerily so. I can't say much about the crust, because I've never bought any. When I go to a bakery, I prefer to get bread with character, and I fear the shape and color are too surreally perfect for me. I guess living in Germany spoiled me with regards to the Staff of Life (in both it's solid and liquid forms).

I know that some people do get them sliced by the baker, as I have seen it happen, but most of the time they just get it as-is.

#13 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:31 AM:

JimR: The bread I encountered when I visited Japan last year was sliced ... but it was sold in increments of 3 or 6 slices only, and each slice was 2 to 3 times the thickness of what one usually encounters in the States. I don't remember seeing the unsliced variety. That would've made my hotel breakfasts rather difficult (I bought a 6-slice bag of bread, a small jar of orange marmalade, and the small jar of Skippy Crunchy Peanut Butter I inexplicably found on a bottom shelf of the 24-hour market around the corner). :)

#14 ::: Dan S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 02:21 AM:

"A question I've had for many years: what was the best thing before sliced bread?

Unfortunately, after coming its power, sliced bread had pre-existing archives dissolved and countless works burned, so we may never know the answer . . .

"We've only had sliced bread for 80 years??? I would have thought bread-cutting technology would go a bit further back. That's over-weirding my pudding."

Don't look into chocolate chip cookie origin stories . . .

#15 ::: AlyxL ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 03:39 AM:

The best and oldest of my local bakeries here in London still slices bread on request, using a machine that looks at least 80 years old. I must ask where it came from originally. As a useful by-product, they also sell bags of breadcrumbs for cooking.

#16 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 05:26 AM:

There is a very neat kitchen gadget that I bought last year (from Lakeland Plastics, for UK natives) that makes hand-slicing bread easier. It's basically an angled plinth with guide rails for the knife -- you plonk the loaf between the rails, adjust its height for the desired thickness, and slice away.

Comes in handy, because I tend to bake my own. (I subcontract the hard work to messrs. Panasonic, but source my own ingredients and dink around with the recipes.)

#17 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 06:50 AM:

On the other hand, at eighty, sliced bread is older than McCain.

The bread slicer that made it all possible was invented by Iowa man Otto Rohwedder who built his first prototype in 1917 but it was not put into commercial use until 1928 when the Chillicothe Baking Co. took it on.
#18 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 07:22 AM:

#2: July 7 is...the birthday of (1) Robert A. Heinlein and (2) Ringo Starr.

And, in the next Resnick alternate history anthology ...

#19 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 08:03 AM:

Charlie, #16: We have a bread-slicing gadget like that. Cheap plastic, but it works really well. As a bonus, it makes the serrated knife unnecessary (as long as you're using a sharp blade), which drastically cuts down on the crumb production.

#20 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 08:23 AM:

18: ... I can't quite picture Robert Heinlein on drums.

But, given Ringo Starr's later career, I would definitely tune in for "Thomas the Supersonic Maglev Monorail Engine".

#21 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 08:53 AM:

#3 - I've actually done that within the past year - at Stop & Shop. In house bakeries with a variety of non-Wonder Breads that you can have sliced in the store. I'll buy a loaf and have it sliced there if I see the attendant and am willing to wait. They still use the bag and twist tie method.

Usually, I'm lazy and just buy one of their pre-sliced loaves of white or rye. For a supermarket bakery, they do a decent job.

#22 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 09:25 AM:

The introduction of bread slicing machines in German bakeries appears to be relatively recent. July 7th also happens to be the anniversary of my arrival here (21 years ago). It was several years after that that I started seeing them in bakeries, using a machine like P.J.Evans in #3 described. Now you're always asked if you want it sliced, and packaged bread on supermarket shelves is generally sliced.

Jim @17 -- sliced bread older than McCain? Eeeww! :)

#23 ::: JimR ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 10:14 AM:

#13 Meredith, Yeah, at the supermarkets it is pre-sliced and sold in 3, 5 or 6 slice bags.
Which always struck me as very odd. Who goes to the grocery store and buys three (usually very think) slices of bread? especially since it costs about a buck!

Although, in all fairness, Japanese bakers have pretty much perfected what they do--make good tasting baked goods that are ALWAYS EXACTLY THE SAME. It's standardization taken to the next level; and in regard to pastries, a laudable exercise.

#24 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 10:55 AM:

JimR @ 23

Back in the early '50s, the Japanese were quite fond of making toast (and the idea of sandwiches hadn't quite caught on). The Staff of Life was still rice, and impaling a very-thick slice of bread on a long fork and toasting it over the coals in the hibachi used for heating the room during cooler weather, then dividing the toast among the children (or adults), was considered A Major Treat. That was, of course, just after the war, and in an era of much simpler pleasures than today.

#25 ::: Chryss ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:04 AM:

See, I prefer the bread heels, because then I can rationalize away that it's not a "full" sandwich.

In other news, I am never, ever getting my weight under control, am I?

#26 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:20 AM:

Bread heels are nice for sandwiches that tend to leak through regular slices: things like scrambled eggs, or honey-by-itself, or even baked beans.

#27 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:28 AM:

Patrick @#2: Maybe your memory mansion has an inconveniently long hallway between the music room and the library.

#28 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:39 AM:

Sliced bread was an immediate success, selling like hotcakes.

Kee-reist, another fake Hallmark E-Card in my inbox. That's about the fourth one today.

#29 ::: Ab_Normal ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:47 AM:

(delurk) (grumble grumble darn celiac sprue) (relurk)

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:19 PM:

Patrick @ 2... I have known for years that July 7 is...the birthday of (1) Robert A. Heinlein and (2) Ringo Starr

...and actor Jeffrey Combs shares his birthday with Cardinal Richelieu.

#31 ::: Redshift ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:49 PM:

The glorification of "each slice the exact counterpart of its fellows" is an interesting reminder of how industrialization used to be a virtue in itself, even in food, just like stock certificates used to proudly feature engravings of factories belching smoke.

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:55 PM:

Kip W @ 28... You've been getting those 'Hallmark' cards too? What tipped me off is that the mailig list - a very long one - wasn't blind.

#33 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:04 PM:

PDF support for Mac Firefox is a pretty good thing that's happened since sliced bread.

#34 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:13 PM:

Serge # 32

Not blind? Heck, it was the body of the e-mail on the ones I got. (Humongous long list, alphabetized.)

#35 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:20 PM:

While I realize most bread knives are serrated, they don't have to be. They just have to be sharp; the sort of knife usually described as a ham slicer works well.

#36 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:31 PM:

Who needs a ham slicer when spiral cut ham graces our holiday dinners? heh.

I found a neat bit of household tech over the holiday weekend that I hadn't been aware of before: liquid soap dispensers that produce soap foam.

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:34 PM:

P J @ 34... I stand corrected. The other thing that tipped me off is that I seldom get Hallmark cards (...must... not... cry...), but when I do, it says who they're from.

#38 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:34 PM:

I got a ton of those Hallmark spams as well.

Bread is a much nicer subject -- true to my Miller heritage, I love the stuff!

#39 ::: Matthew Nielsen ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:37 PM:

Teresa will remember the name of the bakery, though I believe it was The Dutch Bakery. They had one of those amazing bread slicing machines and would slice each loaf on order. I can still smell the place. As I watched, all I could ever think about was what my arm might look like as it passed through. Good times.

#40 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 02:04 PM:

Earl, I hate the soap foam. When I want (liquid) soap, I want liquid soap, not foam!

(Durn kids! Get off my lawn!!)

#41 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 02:32 PM:

Kip, #28: You too? I'm going to have to get my partner (the keeper of the filter files) to find out where they're coming from and auto-trash them.

#42 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 03:11 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 16

Good to know the Lakeland gadget works - I'd wondered about getting one but didn't know anyone who had one and didn't want to buy it then be disappointed. Yes, Mr Panasonic makes it lovely and easy to bake proper bread, with taste and texture and you can wake to that wonderful bread-baking smell.

I've still not found any "raisin nuts" to put into the "raisin nut dispenser" though.

I did refuse a free loaf of the latest "even softer" white bread that Hovis was giving out in a town centre the other week - sounds awful once you're used to the good stuff.

#43 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 03:17 PM:

I was going to trot out a meme related to Lava soap, but it appears that the product's new owners have disrespected traditional pumice-enhanced bar soap by producing Lava liquid soap. Ah, well, another "end of an era" moment....

#44 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 03:32 PM:

Earl, you've never seen all those videos of liquid Lava hitting the ocean in a cloud of steam?

What? That's not Lava?
... never mind.

#45 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 03:41 PM:

Earl @43: Yes, but Right Soap is the powdered blue stuff that came out of the dispensers in the bathroom upstairs from the machine shop in the building where my dad was a Mechanical Engineering professor and where I later attended college. That stuff was just the right sort of gritty and soapy to get off all sorts of ooky grease that one got on one's hands from working on car parts down in the shop. And the dispensers were set up so that you didn't need to get them greasy to get soap out, and the paper towels were coarse, brown, and sturdy.

#46 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 03:43 PM:

PJ @ #44, now you've done it. Over on the Big Island, we got 30-foot fountains of lava yesterday. Video here (left hand side of the page).

#47 ::: Jason B ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 03:46 PM:

My favorite recent use of bread*:

On a solid ciabatta, apply one solid layer of roasted red peppers. On the other half of the bread, spread goat cheese. In between, sprinkle some fresh basil. Then put it in the oven at 350 degrees for about ten minutes.

*Probably OT, since I sliced the bread myself. But at that point, I suppose it was sliced bread . . .

#48 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 03:50 PM:

Redshift @ 31: 'Untouched by human hands'; originally an 50's ad slogan touting factory automation*, later a title of a Robert Sheckley collection.

* Parodied in Mad Magazine, which displayed the slogan in a sign hanging over an assembly line run by monkeys.

#49 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:10 PM:

Kip at 28, Lee at 41, I'm getting them too. Grumble, grump. I've told my computer that they are spam and may be vaporized before they reach my in-box.

#50 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:20 PM:

I now recall the previous (U.S.) best thing to sliced bread - when sliced bread was introduced, I am sure it did "land-office business".

#51 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:26 PM:

#13, #23, #24:

I remember that super-thick sliced bread from my childhood excursion to Japan too. My parents always commented on seeing it that it would be great for French toast, but never made the experiment.

#52 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:43 PM:

Kip, 28, et al. - I got three of those fake e-cards this morning via my personal e-mail (which forwards to my work e-mail - I think the spam filtering caught any ones sent directly to work). They gum up my e-mail for being so big, such that I deleted them from Deleted Mail immediately to get them out of my life.

Rob, 48, re: "untouched by human hands" - you know, Avram's mother says this very thing at the seder table when the matzoh goes through everyone's mitts.

#53 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:45 PM:

Hawai'i's version of sweet bread, unsliced.

#54 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:52 PM:

Jason, #47: My partner and I refer to ciabatta as "lembas". It tastes good, and it certainly fills you up a lot more than you'd think something that size would!

#55 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:55 PM:

Having tried it, I can say with authority that super-thick bread slices do NOT make good French toast. It just... it's like what happens if you try to broil a roast the way you do steak. The Red Apple up the road sells double-thick sliced bread, and that's okay, but the kids still liked regular-thick slices better.

#56 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 05:05 PM:

Chris Quinones @ 52 - only three? I gave up counting...

At least I'm no longer getting the German "improve your sex life" spam that kept arriving for a while. The English sort keeps arriving.

#57 ::: Jason B ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 05:33 PM:

Lee@54: That's hysterical. My wife and I just watched all three extended versions of LOTR this last weekend. I'll have to remember that.

#58 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 05:33 PM:

I was amused the other day by the 419 letter I got:

To Your Candid Attn.

Sub. THE NIGER DELTA QUESTION

I am cynthia white, a spokesperson of "JRC" the "JIONT REVOLUTIONARY COUNCIL" of the NIGER DELTA, the Crude oil rich region of Nigeria.

[snipped]

We therefore seek your indulgence to transfer into your account abraod the sum of about 750(M)dollas, which will come in instalments of 80(M)dollars respectfully.If you are able to maintain utmost good faith after the first payment, we shall subsequently make other payments effectively.

We desire to shop for modern military assult hardwares with our own part of the money. You shall be entittled to 15% of the total sum while 5% shall be set aside for your expenses if any. having full knowledge about us, we shall expect you to keep this information to yourself alone.
[snipped]

#59 ::: Ian ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 06:14 PM:

Synchronicity - I read this post just as the timer alarm went off to tell me it was time to put my bread into the oven. Guess, who's not a fan of factory bread, sliced, wrapped or any fashion.

#60 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 07:03 PM:

Before there was sliced bread, did people ponder on which side the buttered loaf fell?

#61 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 09:30 PM:

Panera has bread slicers. I have bought baker's dozens of bagels and asked to have them "bread sliced" to have backstage. Very popular with hungry actors, particularly asiago.

#62 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 10:20 PM:

You're getting the Hallmark Card Spams too? POPfile neatly corralled them in my spam folder.

Oh, and I suspect that a genuine Hallmark card would have spelled "recieved" right.

(I remember a while ago hearing on the radio the developer of some E-card application waxing ecstatic about how the new e-cards could do this and that and the other thing on the recipient's computer, and me thinking "You'd have to be nuts in the head to run an .exe file that comes in e-mail, even if it's apparently from someone you know and trust."

#63 ::: JimR ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:07 PM:

#61, B.Durbin--
Panera's Asiago Bagels are magic. I used to live next to one, and that was a fine breakfast--bottomless coffee, an asiago cheese bagel and a muffin. Carb heaven!

On the other topic--RE Spam.
Recently, my spam has been getting rather rude. The subject titles have been saying things like : "JimR you look stupid!" or "Got you looking dumb JimR!"
I even got one that said "I've got you naked, JimR." What kind of spam strategy is that, insulting your potential customer?

#64 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:09 PM:

I noticed a while ago that at least one of the brands of sliced bread from Safeway doesn't have each slice the "counterpart of its fellows". The loaf alternates thinner and thicker. I suppose for people who prefer more delicate or sturdier sandwiches.
Once I knew who things were as dead as, before Queen Anne, but I've forgotten, and Brewer's doesn't say.
-Barbara

#65 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:11 PM:

Earl #36: liquid soap dispensers that produce soap foam

I find them very appealing from a tactile standpoint, but aside from that I don't understand them at all. Are they for anything, or are they just pleasing?

Jason #47: On a solid ciabatta, apply one solid layer of roasted red peppers. On the other half of the bread, spread goat cheese. In between, sprinkle some fresh basil. Then put it in the oven at 350 degrees for about ten minutes.

OK, I will.

#66 ::: Ms. Jen ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 12:21 AM:

#29 - Ab_Normal - I also have celiac's and when my rice bread does not satisfy, I sniff good, warm aromatic other bread. I don't eat, just sniff.

Given that warm bread aroma is the best part, just smelling it is grand. Esp. a good sourdough.

#67 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:33 AM:

I happen to be one who remembers old "Panera" Asiago Bagels and when there was a choice of two soups for the bread bowl* (and it cost 3.95). St. Louis Bread Co. was the big thing when I was growing up, being a chain cross between the bakery, the restaurant, and fast food. I went to school with the founder's children, so many late lunches and dinners we ate in the original location. I miss the comfortableness that left when it became Panera and stopped being that cool local chain.

We always got our bagels bread sliced. And the leftover bagels were sold as day olds for uncountable school club fundraisers. I don't think Panera is doing that part any more...

*rotating between Chicken Noodle, Chicken with Wild Rice, Garden Vegetable, French Onion, and Broccoli Cheddar, depending on the day.

#68 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 08:23 AM:

Foaming soap? In my experience, it's for kids who don't like washing their hands - somehow foam is more fun. Also uses less soap (well, more dilute soap, which is less if you're adding the water yourself) than regular liquid soap dispensers, which is nice.

I've been experimenting with no-knead bread lately, but in the summer, I buy the commercial stuff. Why doesn't my house come with a summer kitchen?

#69 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 08:37 AM:

Panera's asiago bagels are *lovely*. They're on my list of "don't think about them" forbidden foods. (Ab_Normal, I'm right there with you. Damn gluten intolerance.)

#65, ethan -

I've noticed that if I wet my hands before applying liquid soap, most of the soap slithers between my fingers and down the drain instead of doing it's job. Perhaps the foam is intended to solve that problem? (It could theoretically be solved with a simple habit change, but I haven't managed that change yet, so I'm not sure the change is a simple one.)

#70 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 08:38 AM:

"...before doing *its* job." I worked hard to learn the difference between those two words, dammit!

#71 ::: affreca ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 10:00 AM:

I tried making sandwiches with the superthick Japanese bread, but never liked it. I'm a big fan of flavor in my bread, and it was very white. But I do miss the French style bakeries of Japan. I ate a lot of spinach and bacon thingies.

As for slicing bread at home, I grew up using a meat slicer. So much nicer looking slices than when I tried with the bread knife.

#72 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 10:48 AM:

This is all -- aside from the comments on liquid soap and card spam -- making me nostalgic for the Seventies, when I lived a few blocks from a bakery in Berkeley's Elmwood district and was introduced to egg bread. At least I can (sometimes) get reasonably fresh challah at the local grocery store's deli. Though I'm not Jewish, for me it's the Bread of Breads.

#73 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 11:28 AM:

Patrick at #2 writes:
Speaking of today, does anyone else ever have the experience of discovering that you've known two separate facts for years, but never put them together side by side? As I have known for years that July 7 is...the birthday of (1) Robert A. Heinlein and (2) Ringo Starr.

Also the birthday of the not-famous physicist and engineer Robert Alden Cornog (1912-1998), Heinlein's close friend. Co-discovered helium-3 and the radioactivity of tritium; ordnance guy on Manhattan Project; rocket scientist. One of three people to whom Stranger in a Strange Land is dedicated.

#74 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 03:24 PM:

When the Dude went to the Special Care Nursery (temperature spike; minor meds and monitoring), I noticed they had foaming soap dispensers there. It works better when foamy, I understand.

#75 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 04:05 PM:

Barbara Gordon @ 64: I have recollections of hearing/reading the expression "Dead as Caesar"...

A little more on topic, Trader Joe's carries (or has carried in the past) a cinnamon-raisin loaf in thick slices. It worked wonderfully well for french toast when I tried it.

And when I drove to college (Cal State-Fullerton), my route took me past the Bridgford Bakery plant...but the air didn't smell like bread, it smelled like toasted lemon pound cake...

Why do I insist on posting on food-related entries when I haven't had lunch? :)

#76 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 07:47 PM:

A place down on the corner makes french toast from fresh made french bread. Dangerously good.

And I wonder why Hallmark doesn't use some of its resources to track down the spammers and send some 'friendly' old ladies to deal with them. :)

#77 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 05:10 AM:

James Macdonald@62:

I suspect that a genuine Hallmark card would have spelled "recieved" right.
That was a rather unfortunate and ironic place for you to have made a typo.

I've been getting these "Hallmark" card things for years; have people here had a sudden recent influx of them? Fortunately for me, UNIX's "mailx" client simply displays the email as text. (Usually they have two "From" lines -- the spoofed one and the real one; this is a dead giveaway for phishing and other scams.)

#78 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 06:17 AM:

As I mentioned upstream, I outsource the tedious bits to a Panasonic breadmaker.

Typical Stross loaf (large/700-odd grams):

Baking yeast: 5g
Organic margarine/soya/olive oil spread: 25-28g
Organic brown sugar: 20g*
Salt: 1-2g**
Mixed-grain malthouse organic flour: 200g
Strong organic wholemeal flour: 150g
Strong organic white flour: 125g
Filtered water: 350ml
Secret ingredient 'X': 5-10g***

Insert in breadmaker, select setting for a large wholemeal loaf, dark crust.

* The sugar is necessary to get the yeast fermenting fast (if you're going to put wholemeal or spelt or wholegrain flour in, which doesn't rise as fast as processed white flour); any left-overs get caramelized during the bake cycle and give you darker crust.

** I try to keep the salt down (blood pressure) -- the yeast doesn't need anything like as much as most bread recipes specify. Also, Secret ingredient 'X' contains salt.

*** Secret ingredient 'X' is Marmite, or similar yeast extract. Lends a lovely malty tang to the bread, adds more salt, really gets the yeast going -- because yeast thrives on ... dead yeast cells! (I got this tip from a brewer: if the mash wasn't starting fast enough, just tip a lump of Marmite in the fermentation vessel and watch it take off.)

If you have your own recipes for rye or wholemeal loaves you might want to just try Secret ingredient 'X' and see what effect it had.

#79 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 06:19 AM:

Incidentally, the mere idea of putting cinnamon or syrup on French toast, or using sweet breads for it, makes me barf; I come from the tradition that holds that French toast is a savory, and the preferred topping should be a pinch of salt. Sweet French toast just tastes wrong.

#80 ::: JimR ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 11:09 AM:

#71, yes--Japanese supermarket bread is no good for sandwiches. You get almost two inches of bland white bread crowding out your fixin's. They do have special sandwich bread which is almost worse-maybe a quarter of an inch thick, with no crusts. Because the only people who eat sammiches at home are kids, I guess?

Although, I have had excellent french toast from the extra thick stuff--the secret is, you have to score the bread. Make a grid of 1.5 cm squares, penetrating about halfway into the bread. I got some at a restaurant once, the bread was about 4 inches thick. They had scored it, and the egg mixture got all thick and sweet into the slices...man, that was good. And exceedingly unhealthy.

No Good for grilled cheese, though. No Good a'tall.

#81 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 11:18 AM:

Charlie Stross @ 79, in the house I grew up in, French toast was a sweet food, served with maple syrup or cinnamon sugar and reserved for breakfast, but fried matzoh (which many people call matzo brei, and which is matzoh soaked in an egg batter in much the same way that French toast is bread soaked in an egg batter, except the batter doesn't contain milk) was a savory food, served for dinner, seasoned with salt, and, as often as not, cooked in onion-flavored Nyafat (a vegetable shortening meant to replace chicken fat, available in onion flavor and unflavored).

#82 ::: Ab_Normal ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 07:03 PM:

Ms. Jen @ 66: Eek! Nasal cross-contamination! ;)

#83 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 07:18 AM:

David Goldfarb @ #77:

I took the quotation marks as an indication that he was spelling the word the same way that the not!Hallmark card spelled it.

#84 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 07:36 AM:

Ab_normal @ 82... Eek! Nasal cross-contamination!

'snot good.

#85 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 03:23 PM:

I've too long put-off creating the bumper sticker:
      If you like good bread, thank a Hippie.

(Of course, the entire foodie movement, for good and ill, owes a lot to a generation that learned to boast of, and sometimes even notice the differences between, the different provenances and varieties of their drugs. <OLD-COOT> If dope had just been legalised, all these damn pipsqueaks arguing about their triple-lactase-free-shade-grown-local clogs would be arguing about Panama Red vs Michoacoan Fictitious Prairie Squid Blue, as God intended.</OLD-COOT>)

#86 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 07:24 PM:

Rikibeth @ 81

I beat the eggs up with milk (as for French toast), then soak the broken up pieces of matzos in it, then fry.

And both French toast and eggy matzos are definitely savory (that seems to be a UK/USA split).

There are probably as many variations on how to make what I grew up calling simply "eggy matzos" as there are Jewish mothers (plus one for luck).

#87 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 08:49 PM:

Charlie Stross & Rikibeth

Thank the gods I found someone who agrees with me about French Toast and motzah brei being savory! My entire family thinks I'm quite mad for covering my eyes when someone puts jam on them. And the logistics of making sure that I can get enough that hasn't been smeared with something sweet!

#88 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 08:53 PM:

I just got a really diabolical phishing spam. It purports to be from the Internal Revenue Service, telling me to click on the link so I can get my $600 refund. I didn't analyze it in detail, but I did notice that a large part of the message, which looks like text, is actually an image. Wonder what they hid in that? I sent it on to the phishing CERT with a comment that this was a nasty one.

#89 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 09:14 PM:

Bruce at 88: Glad you didn't fall for it. There's quite a few of those going around: they usually claim to be about a refund but of course this year it makes sense that the phishers are going after the stimulus rebate in some fashion. Totally bogus, of course. The IRS never communicates with individual taxpayers by e-mail.

#90 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 09:28 PM:

The IRS actually has an address where you can report this sort of e-mail, something like phish at irs dot gov

#91 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 09:52 PM:

Bruce Cohen (STM): My entire family thinks I'm quite mad for covering my eyes when someone puts jam on them.

Seems like a very normal reflex to me. If someone came at me with an open jam jar and a spoon and said "hold still", I'd run like hell.

#92 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 10:02 PM:

#63: Recently, my spam has been getting rather rude. The subject titles have been saying things like : "JimR you look stupid!" or "Got you looking dumb JimR!"

I've been seeing those too, and my guess is that this is an "open me!" lure aimed at young, frequently drunk, people... most likely the kind of party-oriented college kids who post inadvisable photos on their Myspace pages. The idea perhaps being that the recipient will assume an acquaintance attached an embarrassing photo taken while the recipient was drunk (or even passed out) and open the email to see the bad news.

#93 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2008, 10:16 AM:

re the UK (or maybe all of that side of the pond?) thinking french toast is a savory -- IIRC there's a similar split on pancakes. (Yes, there are sweet crepes, but I remember those being foreign exotica in the US in the 1970's.) So is this a consequence of cheap/subsidized sweeteners in the US, or are there foods that the UK sweetens and the US doesn't?

#94 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2008, 04:22 PM:

Panera's asagio cheese bagels -- hmmmm..... wonnerful stuph

When the thread meantioned the bread-slicing machine I isnatantly thought of the one at our local Panera's bakery. I'm sure other bakeries have 'em, but I cannot recall any making an impression on me. The one at Panera (at least our local one in Shrewsbury (MA (USA), not UK) can slice in either current-regulation "thin" slice or a double thickness slice.

I suspect the sliced bagel section samples that the bakery puts out to feed the assembled masses waiting in line (including both of my boys) are simply put through the bread slicing machine.

And, to tie several subthreads together, Panera is also now making a "French toast" bagel.

#95 ::: mommybrain ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 01:01 PM:

I beg to differ with your title. My wedding anniversary is July 7, and honestly, it's been much better than sliced bread for 17 years.

#96 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 01:29 PM:

Oh, mommybrain, that's really sweet! I hope your husband sees this.

Really, that's one of the nicest first-time posts I've ever seen. I'm sitting here grinning ear to ear.

#97 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2008, 07:10 PM:

I'll second that. Happy belated anniversary!

#98 ::: Spam Deleted ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2009, 08:18 AM:

Spam from 58.65.149.195

#99 ::: fidelio notes something that looks a lot like spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2009, 08:42 AM:

There's just something dodgy there, is what I'm saying.

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