Thursday, April 30, 2009

The ACTUAL Best Invention Since Sliced Bread.

What, exactly, was so great about sliced bread as an invention?

Nothing, that's what. There was nothing great about sliced bread as an invention. Sliced bread was a necessity, for one thing. Back in the 1700s, or whenever bread was invented, it would have (as bread does) come in a loaf. What were people supposed to do with it, just eat it that way? Put a couple of slices of bologna, and mayo (they had mayo in the 1700s, right?) and cheese on an entire loaf of bread, then put a whole 'nother loaf of bread on top of that, and eat it?

Ridiculous. And while most of what happened in history was, in fact, ridiculous (why the powdered wigs? What's the deal with pyramids? Flappers and flagpole sitting? Come on), it's beyond comprehension to think that somebody, somewhere, didn't instantly look at a loaf of bread and say I'd better slice a piece of that off to make it manageable.

So the idea of slicing bread was itself not that big of an innovation. And neither was pre-sliced bread, which is what I suppose most people would think of when they refer to something as being The Best Invention Since Sliced Bread.

They don't say "pre-sliced bread," but it's implied.

Pre-sliced bread is also not that great an invention. Unlike actual great inventions, things that improved upon modern life a great deal or otherwise came up with something truly unique or new (e.g., Cadbury Creme Eggs, the Herman's Hermit's Song "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter":)

Unlike those things, pre-sliced bread was not a major innovation, or even, really, necessary, and in fact, it's kind of unnecessary and wasteful.

Everytime I think of how much trouble must have gone into inventing and maintaining and perfecting a machine that would take a freshly-baked loaf of bread and slice it up and then package it, I think Couldn't the world have done something else with that kind of energy and time and money? Something useful, like maybe finding a way to stop televising hockey or outlawing left turns? Because the act of slicing bread is simply not that hard. Not at all. You take a knife, you lightly slice off one or two or three or however many slices you want, and you go on with your life.

So it's easy to slice bread. Why, then, do we have to have pre-sliced bread, and why is that tiny innovation -- a tiny innovation that's both wasteful and, as I'll get to in a moment, un-American, -- held up as the pinnacle of human achievement, or at least the prior pinnacle of human achievement to which all future inventions must aspire?

Pre-sliced bread is, too, wasteful. Every loaf of pre-sliced bread I've ever seen has the endcaps -- those slices of bread that aren't quite whole slices of bread, and that lots of people don't want because the endcap is 98% crust. If you use that end cap on your bologna-and-mayo-and-cheese sandwich, it will not only mean you get a lot of crust but also that the top slice of bread is going to be a little smaller than the bottom, creating a Nigel Tufnel-esque sandwich inequity.

But what are you supposed to do, create an endcap-only sandwich to match them up? Then you get more crust, plus the endcap is thinner and smaller than the other slices, so you'll have an inferior sandwich experience.

So most people, I imagine, simply do what I am so reluctant to do, and that's throw away the endcap. Imagine. There are, say, 6 billion people in the world*

(*unscientific, made-up-on-the-spot estimate.)

Each of whom eats, on average, we'll say, one loaf of bread per week.*

(* see previous asterisk.)

Now, we can discount Russia from this, because they eat only that black, hard, Russian bread that can't be cut and is also used for ballast in their secret Navy floating just off the coast of Novosibirsk, so we'll reduce the figure to 5.5 billion people. Doing some quick math, that's 5.5 billion loaves of bread per week, or 11 billion endcaps of bread being thrown out per week, which, taken together, would be, in a year, enough bread to build an entirely new planet, which we could put into synchronous orbit around the sun in Earth's orbit, but exactly opposite us, so that the Bread Planet would never catch up to Earth. Then we could take all those people that I don't like (e.g., Ashton Kutcher, Diablo Cody, people who turn left in front of me when I'm in a hurry to get home) and send them to The Bread Planet to live and Twitter and wear trucker caps and write movies that will be overrated and will not hold up to the test of time, and then I would not have a 40-minute commute to go seven miles.

So, using science, you can see ... well, something. I'm not sure what point, or points, I just made, but they were no doubt very cogent.

Pre-sliced bread is also un-American: It stands in the way of freedom, specifically, the "freedom to have whatever thickness of bread I want," and also the "freedom to have different thicknesses of the same bread if that's how I roll."

Pun intended.

When I buy pre-sliced bread, someone, somewhere -- probably a secret cabal, probably including President Obama -- has determined the thickness of the bread I am going to want, or need, or use, and that's that. If I want a thicker, or thinner, slice, well, tough. So I am forced to buy two different kinds of bread if I think Maybe tomorrow I'll want a thicker bread -- like, maybe I'll need thicker bread because instead of bologna, I might put sliced-up corn dogs and macaroni and cheese on it, then microwave the whole shebang, and need some thick bread to hold that all together.

And don't knock the Corn Dog-and-Macaroni sandwich on Texas Toast until you try it. It's delicious!

But thanks to the Obama Bread Cabal, or whoever, I can't just get one loaf of bread and determine how to slice it. Or, I could but I'd have to go to a special store and buy special, more expensive, unsliced bread.

And what kind of world is it where it's more expensive to buy bread that hasn't been sliced? They don't charge more for an unassembled set of bunk beds, you know.

Pre-sliced bread denies me, as an American, my God-given and Constitutionally-guaranteed right to slice my bread however I want it. I get the same width of bread slice that people in Maryland do, for crying out loud.

Anyway, you get the point: sliced bread isn't so great an invention. But, human culture has decided that sliced-bread is the yardstick against which to measure innovation. Just as we rank our inadequacies as a society by comparing them to the moon landing, we judge our successes by how they measure up to sliced bread.

While that's a pretty low hurdle to get over, I still have come up with The ACTUAL Best Invention Since Sliced Bread, and, like all truly great inventions throughout human history, it came to me as a combination of hunger and sloppiness.

In this case, those two qualities were combined into one burger-eating-attempt as Sweetie and I were driving home last night from a visit to Mom, and we stopped to get something to eat. I ordered the "Whopper" at Burger King, even though I knew I'd regret it, and I did regret it.

I got the "Whopper" because I was hungry, and it takes a lot of fast food to knock out hunger. Fast food shrinks on its way to the belly, so a quarter-pound burger in your hand becomes nickel-sized by the time it hits your stomach, so if you don't get a big enough burger starting out, you have to keep on eating french fries to fill up, and the french fries were technically for the twins, so you're a horrible person because you're literally taking food away from your children.

To combat that, I ordered the "Whopper" but I knew that was a mistake because the "Whopper" has all those ingredients on it like lettuce and onions and mayo and such, and they all flop out as you bite it, falling onto your dark blue shirt and squirting onto your face and generally making a mess of things, and that's what happened, exactly, with the added benefit of me dribbling a little soda down my shirt, too, and thanking the powers that be (The Obama Bread Cabal) that "mayonnaise and diet Coke on shirt" is not grounds for divorce in our state.

And that's when The ACTUAL Best Invention Since Sliced Bread came to me, and here it is:

Pouch Bread.

That's the name I've come up for it, anyway. Here's how it works. Instead of slicing bread, we devote all our time and energy, as a species, to developing machines that can take bread, once made, and make it into a sandwich pouch -- like a pita, but not all weird and foreign-y, and made up of good, wholesome white or wheat bread.

The Pouch Bread would have an opening into which a hamburger, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, what-have-you, could be slid, but all around, say, 90% of the sandwich, would be sealed in, so that no matter what your sandwich is, you can eat it with one hand secure in the knowledge that your ingredients are stuck inside.

Pouch bread wouldn't just be for driving, either -- it would work perfect at home. How often have you tried, as I did last week, to make yourself a deep-fried ham, swiss cheese, and apple sandwich (trust me, it's awesome) and then sat down to eat it, only to have half the ingredients squirt out onto your plate so that you end up eating your sandwich ingredients separately from the bread, with a fork, like some kind of loser?

Too often, I bet, if your life is anything like mine.

But with Pouch Bread (TM), that would never happen. Bite into the open side, and the ingredients skooch back... to be caught by the pouch.

I've even got a mascot for it: Paulie The Kangaroo, a friendly kangaroo who hops around the world, watching kids and grown-ups spill their sandwiches all over important papers and the laptop computers and all, and says, cheerily, "Why try eating a mess? Have a Pouch!" Then he pulls a piece of Pouch bread out of his pocket, hands it to the happy, now-smiling person, and hops off into the sunset while the voice over (James Earl Jones) says "No more sloppy sandwiches. Have a Pouch!"

And here Mom thought I'd never make a positive contribution to society.

In closing, let me just say that (a) you can thank me in $10s and $20s, and (b) here's another Herman's Hermits song to play you out. It's "No Milk Today." I didn't listen to it closely, but if I heard the lyrics correctly, the singer isn't getting milk and that's the end of all his hopes and dreams...

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Chance, love, fate, drownings, packages, movies, music, Las Vegas, brothers, sisters, Madison, snow, fiances, serial killers maybe? Up So Floating Many Bells Down is a novel about a year in the life of a brother and sister as each tries to cope with a drowning and the death of their mother. Heartbreaking and unique: Read it today.


Caitlin said...
Seems like Iran has you covered on this: just cut a farmers' loaf in half and pull out the fluff :D

Briane P said...

They've certainly taken this idea and run with it, haven't they? Plus, that bread looks incredible.

Anonymous said...

The achievement was not the sliced bread. It was a machine that could slice bread perfectly without changing the shape of the loaf, you can't just take a knife and push down to cut bread.

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The Kangaroo, a friendly kangaroo who hops around the world, watching kids and grown-ups online casino spill their sandwiches all over important papers and the laptop computers and all, and says

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