On this day in 1928, the best thing since sliced bread was sliced bread. That’s because it was on this day that sliced bread was first brought to market by the Chillicothe Baking Company. Apparently, the bread slicing machine had been around for 16 years before that. But no one thought to start selling sliced bread. And do you wanna know why that is? Because it is really kind of silly. Who needs pre-sliced breads?!
Look, I grew up with sliced bread. At one time, it boggled my mind that pre-sliced bread had to be invented. After all, doesn’t everyone want their bread sliced eventually? Why not have it done before you buy it? Well, I have to admit that when I was a kid, I thought it was a great idea that the televisions that they made in the Soviet Union didn’t have a volume control — it just had a single volume. (I have no idea whether that was just Cold War propaganda or not.) I thought, “Great! Perfect volume!” But of course, it wasn’t the perfect volume. It was just the volume. Well, it’s the same thing about bread, and I think most bread is sliced too thin.
Regardless, it just isn’t hard to slice your own bread. There are many great time saving conveniences to come out of the 20th century. The washing machine comes to mind. But pre-sliced bread does not. I’m not against it. But it just doesn’t much matter. The only reason that anyone thinks it matters is because they are used to it. Sliced bread is typical of American consumerism: it fills a manufactured need. The true creativity is convincing people that they need it.
Given this, I think we should change the phrase, “The best thing since sliced bread!” We should say it ironically. Supposed that The History Channel put out another Swamp People reality show. We could say, “That’s the best thing since sliced bread!” It would be perfect. For one thing, it would be a new show that no one is asking for. No one would actually want it. Yet after it was available, people would wonder how they ever got along without it. We could even combine the phrase with another of my favorites phrases, “That’s the best thing since sliced bread, because people are dumb as a bag of rocks.”
But happy birthday sliced bread!