Peggy Keener: No matter how you slice it

Published 5:48 pm Friday, November 12, 2021

One of my biggest regrets about summer’s passing has nothing to do with warm temps and long lazy evenings. No, my regret is all about tomatoes. Let’s face it, a just-picked, homegrown summer tomato is … is … well, how do you spell divoon? And like a mud-faced blind date who turns out to have a sparkling personality, this also holds true for the most misshapen, abominable Humpback-of-Notre-Dame backyard tomatoes. “Ugly” in Tomato Talk, is pronounced “scrumptious”.

We all know that a still-warm-from-the-sun summer tomato sandwich is a gift from the gods. Of course, the bread must be white …. and fluffy …. and be everything we’ve been taught that is not good for us.

Thus we come to the crux of this column, for herein lies the problem. It’s all about the anti-good-sense struggle we have with white sliced bread—or fluffy slabs of square, air-infused marshmallows. Just one glance at the wrapper is enough to chastise one’s conscience.

I feel like Beezlebub’s great aunt when I sneak down HyVee’s bread aisle in search of it, my neck getting all cricked out from craning it to see if anyone’s looking. Moreover, once found, I must stealthily snatch it up pronto and then fumble around in my cart to find something big enough under which to hide the bread’s obvious bleached unwholesomeness. All the white-flour sin and guilt in the world is swirling around me.

You know what I’m talking about. Say it! Only half a notch above Twinkies, you know you love it. Heck, it’s what we grew up on, a main staple in our mom’s pantries. Wonder Bread!

Wonder Bread has been around for more than 100 years … and here I do not refer to its shelf life. Those years, unfortunately, have not always been smooth. Its very existence was challenged when extinction was threatened after an explosion over whole grains seized our guilt ridden psyches. Overnight white flour became the Hannibal Lecter of the food chain.

Before this upheaval folks actually considered Wonder Bread to be cleaner than homemade bread. You see, at the turn of the century, food-borne illnesses such as cholera and typhus were a serious threat. People pointed the finger of blame at home baked bread. Ironically, they envisioned factory bread as being kneaded by sanctified baking angels with antiseptic hands and unsullied souls. Furthermore the stark whiteness of the bread further promoted its reputation for purity and cleanliness.

Not until 1930, was Wonder Bread sliced. But once it was, the public loved it. This came to a halt during WWII, though, when the slicing machines were needed for making weapons. Steel was required to make ammo, not for cutting bread. Even the wax paper wrapper was declared a war necessity.

For many years Wonder Bread was not enriched. This resulted in a pellagra outbreak with blanched white flour as the transgressor. In 1940, the FDA got involved when they required the bread maker to put back into the bread the vitamins and nutrients they had removed while bleaching it. As a result, thiamine, riboflavin and nicotinic acid were added to create the first enriched Wonder Bread. In doing so, pellagra was eradicated. Wonder Bread became a hero.

Improvements continued. By 1952, Wonder Bread claimed it contained eight healthy ingredients: protein, calcium, phosphorous, iron, vitamins B1, B2, niacin and an unnamed energy booster. They boasted how much food a person would have to eat in order to get such a variety of body building nutrients.

Yet, it must be told that in 1998, storm clouds gathered over the sainted bread when it was accused of being racially biased. Workers were blatantly cracking discriminatory charged jokes and it was clear that promotions were racially selective. Finally resolved two years later, the plaintiffs walked away with $131 million. No matter how you slice it, that was a whole lot of bread.

Some time later, the company boasted of changing to whole wheat. Despite their assertions, health-savvy detectives shunned it when they discovered that Wonder Bread was cunningly putting back into the flour the very nutrients they had removed when they bleached it. And making it brown. Get out!

Still, knowing what I do about the bogus health claims of Wonder Bread, I am unable to stop myself from eating it with summer tomatoes. It’s like an 11th Commandment dictating that I must.

The really good news is that I have found the bread to be useful in other ways. Here are a few of my very best suggestions ……

Do you have tired, aching feet? If so, insert slices of Wonder Bread into your shoes to find instant heaven-sent relief. And stacks of those precious slices can also be a balm for you who sit on hard cold bleachers during AHS football games. No more sore bottoms when Wonder Bread is on the case. Simply pile the bread under your bum for deluxe bleacher bench comfort. (If it looks like rain—or snow—can this idea.)

To be sure, slices layered deeply and abundantly, make fabulous gymnastic mats. Or dry them and you have a game of Frisbee. Here’s another idea. With winter upon us, squeeze dampened bread into the cracks around your drafty windows. So easy to do. Just moisten the bread as you did as a kid when you made spit balls.

Above all, do not squander your money on breast implants. Inserted stacks of Wonder Bread will enhance you to your desired voluptuousness.(Crusts optional). Moreover, no longer will you fret over spills. Lay upon the messes several spongy absorbent slices and slurp! Look Ma! No more ishiness!

Insulation? Heck, yes! Shoulder pads? Heck, heck, yes!

As for home décor, you, too, can be a designer! Put one leg of a child’s leotard inside the other leg, insert one entire loaf of Wonder Bread and tie off the open end with a satin ribbon. Voila! You have just magically created a comfortable, cushy sofa pillow. And due to the sanctified shelf life of Wonder Bread, you may not have to redecorate for years. (In case of famine, eat sofa pillow.)

Finally, emergency care. In the event of a serious injury (i.e. severed limb), stem excessive blood flow with Wonder Bread taped over the wound. Add slices when needed.

And there you have it. So precious, so malleable, and so, so very useful. Such is the wonderment of Wonder Bread.