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July 8, 2008

The greatest invention


My husband told me over breakfast that I missed the anniversary of sliced bread yesterday. Since I struggle with slicing bread for toast every morning, he pointed out, maybe it's an invention I might want to take advantage of. Ha ha. Good one, Tom. I can see today is starting off where yesterday ended.

Anyway, I just Googled "sliced bread" and found out that the inventor of the first mechanical bread slicer was Otto Frederick Rohwedder. ...

This is not a joke. I don't see July 7 as the date, but Mr. Rohwedder was born on July 7, 1880 in Des Moines. He introduced his invention in 1928; it was patented on July 12, 1932 (Patent:1,867,377). That's only four days away, so why don't we think of some way to celebrate on Saturday. Suggestions?

There are other milestones, according to As you can see, the story is filled with intrigue, mysterious fires, pop-up toasters and so on. I think we have the basis for a multi-million dollar action movie here:

1912 Otto Rohwedder toys with the idea of producing a machine to slice bread
1916 Rohwedder begins to design a machine to slice bread
1917 fire destroys his factory, prototype machine and the blueprints
1926 Toastmaster begins selling pop-up toasters
1927 Rohwedder finally saves enough money to begin again to build a bread slicer
1928 Rohwedder files patent application for a single step bread slicing machine
1928 forms a company Mac-Roh Sales & Manufacturing to build and sell the bread slicer machine
1928 first mechanical pre-sliced bread goes on sale to the public in Chillicothe, Missouri
1929 St. Louis, Missouri baker, Gustav Papendick, adds improvements to Rohwedder's machine.
1930 Wonder Bread begins selling pre-sliced bread, most bakeries follow suit
1932 toaster sales skyrocketed, thanks to the standardized size of sliced bread
1933 American bakeries were turning out more sliced than unsliced bread
1933 Rohwedder sells patent rights to and goes to work for Micro-Westco, Inc.
1934 Patent 1,970,379 issued August 14, 1934 for Slicing Machine assigned to Papendick, Inc.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 8:49 AM | | Comments (36)


That's only four days away, so why don't we think of some way to celebrate on Saturday. Suggestions?
Let's all meet at Atwater's and have them slice our bread...sunflower flax for me, please.

Oh, and having used the expression frequently and wondering out loud frequently what the greatest thing before sliced bread was, I love this topic.

Oh, thank goodness.

Sliced bread. A nice, safe topic upon which we can all agree.

It will be so much friendlier in the Sandbox today.

Don't count on it. EL

The greatest thing before sliced bread? Unsliced bread, of course.

Mr. Old Retired Fart in Elkridge has a knack for getting to the Truth in its most basic form, does he not?

Which is why he should be burned as a witch. Good for him. This is obviously bait for the contrarians, but I see that they are all hiding under their single serving blankies today.

See, Bucky? You were oh so wrong. EL

You were right, Ms. Large. Your experience trumps my wistfulness.

So, since we are going there anyway, what I would like to see is sliced bread with just two slices to the package, for people like me who have a sandwich just once a week or so.

Bucky: don't get the Sandbox started again. Now you will get the Excess Packaging Police on our case! If they don't like single-serve spices, they surely won't like single-serve bread!!!!
How silly of you :-)

Hate to say it, but I prefer to slice my own bread. Or, better yet, tear it. Good bread should be torn.

I guess I'm a contrarian.

I retract my comment, above. I just want everyone to be friends.

Why don't we all eat Batter Blasters and get along happily!

I'm a real big fan of sliced bread, but don't eat a lot of it. So I freeze a half a loaf at a time.

But I just discovered whole-wheat tortillas that taste great and are quite healthy.

I'm trying to ignore the "nattering nabobs of negativism" here.

OK...back to Rosebud's original question of the greatest invention before sliced bread. From a culinary point of view, it would have to be refrigeration, wouldn't it? Or Pasteurization?

I'm still exceedingly thankful for anesthesia, myself, but that has nothing to do with food. (Although Bourbon Girl might make a convincing case otherwise.)

Bucky - I'll share a loaf with you (and with anyone else who only eats 1-2 slices a week.) Kind of a bread co-op.

The one thing I don't love about Wegman's is that they won't slice your bakery loaf for you. I happen to like my bread pre-sliced sometimes--so sue me.

Kitkat, that's very sweet of you to propose sharing your loaf with Bucky--but are you going to mail it out to Colorado?

Lissa - I'm with you! To me, great bread is fresh baked & sort of crusty and with a dense and moist inside. Perfect for tearing off chunks and dipping into stews and soups and great olive oil.

And just look at the improvements to the technology! Now they have machines that can slice three loaves at a time. There are bigger machines, of course, but it's pretty tough to find a four-loaf cleaver.

Please don't hit me.

[T]earing off chunks makes a very lumpy PBJ. And that's if you use smooth peanut butter. Chunky and lumpy together, I don't want to think.

Now to keep your Wonder Bread really nice and fresh, vacuum seal and freeze 2 slices at a time. Good eat'n.

Kitkat...Dahlink has correctly identified the logistical problem to your otherwise excellent idea.

But those of you who are located in or near Baltimore could co-op many, many foodstuffs, saving your time, sanity and the Earth.

I call that a Three-Bird Stone.

If I was there, I would take it upon myself to organize a Sandbox Co-op. No, really, I would. Alas...

I mostly break bread!

(Just the way Dom Gregory Dix said we should.)

So, Bucky, hon, when are you moving here? You already have fans!

In four days... open/pour a cold one, unleash the bread eating cats on the nattering nabobs of negativism, and see what happens. Then go to Clementine's for sausages.

Aw, gee Dahlink. That's a sweet thing to say.

I'm afraid I could never leave Colorado permanently. I'm too deeply rooted to be transplanted safely.

I am, however, exceedingly glad I found the on-line Baltimore Sun, Ms. Large, Ms. Kelber and all the kids in the Sandbox.

LJ, I really don't what to know what Sprio Agnew would think about my bread-eating cats. Especially since he's dead.

Dagny wouldn't care, though, as long as he petted her.

I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what the heck has been going on in the sandbox for the last two days. Then I had an epiphany. The first cutback in the Sun staff was the elimination of the sandbox keeper positions. The inmates are running the asylum. Run for your life, Elizabeth!

My favorite Atwater's breads are struan (Celtic whole-grain yumminess) and raisin pumpernickel (to die for!). Sometimes I want them sliced, sometimes not. To keep them, I wrap four slices at a time in plastic wrap, then foil, and freeze them. Little danger of waste when you're thawing only four slices at a time., LJ and Lissa. I had completely forgotten. Maryland. Spiro Agnew. I have SO many questions for y'all that I've been saving up for, like, 35 years.

Can't help you much here, Bucky, as I myself moved to Maryland only after Spiro had moved on, but I do recall that he got started in politics as head of his local parent teacher association. Talk about acting locally!

We do have some pretty colorful public characters here in Maryland, Bucky. I can't think of anyone from Colorado who compares (was Gary Hart--aka Monkey Business--from Colorado?)

But if you slice or "tear" your own bread how will you know what size a single serving is? What would you do with torn bread except throw it out? It's broken. What are we animals? Duh. Henry Ford and the great American workers like my daddy made this country great by standardizing labor and it's products. Before standardization, America was a backward turd pool of possibility full of dirty immigrants pulling in all different ways -- anarchy, especially the Papaists and Irish.

I used to stare at blocs of cheese in the 1960s wondering what to do, because there were too many options until Kraft invented individually rapped single slices of American(!) cheese. My mother used to make me an afternoon snack before I went to the factory, but when she died of liver cancer I had no snacks and my stomach moaned at 3:10 every day. Then Kraft and Jesus filled that hole in my life and came up wioth Lunchables Jrs. Don't make me go back. I can't take any more loss. I'm all cryed out. It would be like killing my mother all over again.

I already have my burial plot and casket picked out and put on a finance plan and believe you me THEY are single serving. Even a foreigner socialist like Obama von Clinton can't take that away. God bless America and our right to live free and die alone.

Gary Hart was--still is--from Colorado. He lives up in Troublesome Gulch, which is nearby one of my favoritely-named restaurants, Dick's Hickory Dock.

Bucky - There were some wonderful named eateries in Colorado in the early 70s when Colorado was a haven for hippies. In Boulder there was the great breakfast place called "Magnolia's Thunder Pussy."

I lived in Crested Butte long before there was a ski area. We just hung out, imbibed in lots of illegal substances, would hike up the hills to ski down (no chair lifts at that time).

Two enterprising young men from Baltimore "owned" (i.e., they drove a pick up truck) a trash removal company and they would haul all the trash to a local dump in Gunnison for a "fee" (free food, free drugs). They named the company Ball-more and Dig It. Were people more cleaver back then or did we just have shallow thoughts?

Would y'all please excuse Kitkat and me for a minute while we chat completely off-topic? Thanks.

Kitkat, SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I learned to ski when they built J-bar hill at Crested Butte, perfected my technique on the T-bar hill and when they built the original gondola, used to make out between runs with...well, I'm not naming names, just in case you are related to her. (OMG, what if you are HER? HA!)

I grew up in Gunnison (moved there in '61), moved away, went back and graduated from WSC then moved to Denver because you needed a Masters degree to sack groceries in Gunnison. That's how nice a place it was to live.

I still go over and fly fish on the Taylor River every a matter of fact in three weeks the Hirsute Outdoor Gentlemen's Society (HOGS), of which I am a founding member, will have its annual reunion-triathlon--fishing on Saturday, prime rib & poker on Saturday night and golf at Dos Rios on Sunday--in Gunnison.

Thanks, everyone, for allowing this little personal digression. I know that's not the purpose of this blog and I appreciate your indulgence.

There is no purpose of this blog. EL

I sure hope you are talking about Robbie Haynes. I think she is still in CB. Ahhh. Just remembering the Grub Steak which I also think is still open. We both worked there in the early 70s.

I'm not, but that name sounds familiar. (At my age, all names sound familiar, to be honest.) Did you know Gavin Raines (who I'm also not talking about, but that name seems to be linked with the name Robbie Haynes in my mind. Like, maybe, they were friends...)?

(I have not the foggiest idea how to punctuate that previous sentence.)

I was at Western at the same time you were working at the Grub Steak.

Small world...

As Bucky said, "Small world." It's less than 6 degrees of separation, folks.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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