Kiss & Tell: So What’s So Great About Sliced Bread?

The phrase, “The best thing since sliced bread,” is known as a metaphor meaning a most useful innovation. It supposedly originated in 1928 when the Chillicothe Baking Company became the first company to sell sliced bread. While it may not seem that important to those who have a Wusthof serrated knife from Williams Sonoma to lop off a piece of a gluten-free seven-grain loaf to be adorned with almond butter, to the housewife with five children who considered it a morale issue, it was all about the math: 10 slices for toast then 20 slices for lunch sandwiches then finally one piece of toast for herself. You can imagine this as an early source of carpal tunnel syndrome. Unfortunately, sliced bread led to the rise (pun intended) of soft loaves like Wonder Bread, which were nutritional nightmares best used to be balled up and catapulted across lunch rooms at class bullies.

If we really want to think about the most useful innovations, how about penicillin, the printing press, or tampons? It’s fascinating to look back over the history of new inventions and their level of importance. In terms of housewife morale, cellophane was apparently a useful invention when it could be used not only for said sliced bread but for advice for a happy marriage to wrap her naked body in it and lay under the dining room table waiting for her husband to come home (true story). 

These inventions date back to 7000 BC when the first alcohol was fermented from rice, honey, and hawthorn fruit in China all the way up to 2023 and airbag jeans to protect you in motorcycle accidents. While I can appreciate the importance of some innovations such as refrigeration, birth control, and Braille, others are in my “meh” reaction, like the safety pin, pressure cooker, or Rubik’s Cube. And don’t even get me started on the evils of self-driving cars. Yet think of all the advances in dentistry which don’t involve tying a string around a bad tooth to the donkey’s harness and yelling, “Giddy up,” or cataract surgery which saves people’s ability to see clearly as they age (although it may thwart God’s plan to not notice the state of your crow’s feet or ass). Or simply, the curling iron.

So, as we look to the future, using our imagination, what really would be the greatest thing since sliced bread?

Like the patches that constantly read glucose levels, one which would indicate the toxicity of any person near you. Or a zapper on your cell phone when you are in a fight and about to say the one thing you can never take back. Perhaps a pair of jeans that morphs stylistically to fit you at your skinniest to post-breakup binge biggest (a clue may be in that airbag jean technology). 

Desperately needed in an anxiety-filled world, a non-pharmaceutical on/off switch you could use to go peacefully to sleep and arise well-rested. Or an alert when your loved one is sick and you need to know the last moment they will consciously be able to hear you and understand when you say, “I love you.”

It seems that what is so great about sliced bread is saving time, or controlling time, or stopping time. So maybe the most useful innovation is not new at all but about being present, in the present moment, and taking in what is wonderful about right now. Perfect in its imperfection. But at least with a working toilet.

Heather Buchanan

Heather Buchanan is an award-winning writer with the accolades of "Best Column" and "Best Humor Column" from both the National Association of Newspaper Columnists and the Press Club of Long Island. Having first dipped her toes in the beaches of Sagaponack at three weeks old she has a long lens on Hamptons real estate both as a journalist, marketer, and buyer and seller before joining Sotheby’s International Realty. With her in-depth knowledge and personal dedication, she has been helping clients realize their dreams of a home in the Hamptons. When she is not working, she is perfecting her secret pie crust recipe, mastering the nine iron or making peace with pigeon pose.

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