Sliced Bread Isn’t Even That Good (A Slice of History)

Two weeks ago, I decided to go on a Zoom call with one of my friends to “catch up” on the various happenings in both of our lives since the pandemic struck. We chatted, chortled, and even cheered at the variety of misfortunes, malignant misadventures, and merry makings that occurred in the chaotic mess that was 2020. Well… until he decided to elucidate me on the new forms of food he decided to try during the pandemic. Of course, supporting local restaurants is no unjust cause, and he certainly wasn’t incorrect in pointing out a delightful empanada shop that had opened its doors in downtown, but then he felt further compelled to make the worst comparison of all time:

“It was the best thing since sliced bread.”

At that moment, I was shocked. I was stunned. I was stupefied. I daresay, for a few flickering moments, I felt my soul leave my body and ascend to the heavens. Sliced bread? SLICED BREAD?? sLiCeD BrEaD??? Never had I before considered the ramifications of such a daring comparison. Sure, the idiom is one we’re all too familiar with from our first breath. If something tastes phenomenal, or possesses utility far beyond the horizons of one’s imagination, it’s a common thing to rejoice, “It’s the best thing since sliced bread!” But what is so impressive about sliced bread? 

Well, it turns out that bread has some real clout to its name. For example, you can legitimately look up, and I kid you not, a Wikipedia page for SLICED bread. That’s right. Aside from the pages for regular breads, loaves, and variations of the baker’s obsession, there’s an entire page devoted to the complex analytical breakdown of the preparatory division of an otherwise average loaf. And yes, I say average because the Wikipedia definition of sliced bread is: “a loaf of bread that has been sliced with a machine and packaged for convenience.” How much more cookie-cutter can we get here, people? It’s literally being cut by a fucking machine!!!

Supposedly—and this is merely from speculative tracing of the ever trustworthy Wikipedia page—the idiom itself originates from the fact that sliced bread represented a fundamental step forward in the world of bakery. But you know what? The only thing I’m wondering about Wonder Bread’s first commercially sliced bread is who gives a shit.

However, I realize that in an era of cancel culture and social media executions, a rant on sliced bread just might be enough to arouse liberals AND conservatives to cancel loaf culture. But, to try and maintain some positive change, I’ve decided the more constructive route might be “repairing” the idiom with a fixture that, at the very least, provides far more utility in its sliced form than bland old bread. To do so, it’s critical to understand the 3 reasons bread is so loved when sliced:

  1. Convenience of Slicing
  2. Utility of the Sliced Form
  3. Inconveniences caused by the Unsliced Form

And under these guidelines, I’ve compiled a short, but quite respectable list of candidates that will not only prove to exceed bread in each of these criteria, but “slice” right through the competition. Behold:

“It’s the best thing since sliced apples!”

Apples. Apples have been around forever, am I right? In the story of Creation, it’s long been depicted that the fruit that Adam & Eve ate, which led to the Fall of Man after those prelapsarian times, was an apple. In school, we’d hear tales of Johnny Appleseed: the rugged, debonair, and suave pioneer nurseryman who reached legendary status by introducing apple trees to the Midwest. And whenever I see a person with bird poop dripping from their ear, I snap myself back to the reality that those are just AirPods… and they must likely own an accompanying Apple device. But what about the food? Apples are used in pastries, as flavoring additives, and even in fizzy drinks like cider that warm up the insides of my belly with an intense sweetness. Yet, lurking just beneath the surface, lies an insidious device that’s better left to the Bonds and Bournes of the world… the apple seed. 

When somebody is a bad apple, it’s really an extension of the seed that’s inside the apple. See, most apple seeds contain CYANIDE, a deadly poison that can kill giants if used in the proper proportions. While one seed on its own lacks the lethal toxicity to kill a human being, if ~18 whole apples are consumed, it might just be enough to spell d-e-a-t-h. So let’s look at guideline #3 once again with this in mind. If we each eat 18 loaves of unsliced bread, the worst that might happen is a rather sudden gain of weight, and slight predisposition to heart disease (which in all fairness is quite the killer in America today). But consider eating 18 whole apples, and you’ve essentially re-created the famous suicide pills used throughout intelligence agencies during World War 2. Clearly, the unsliced apple is more dangerous on its own, and can’t be left to its own devices. 

What about guideline #2? Sure, sliced bread might be used for toast, sandwiches, and other carb-filled dishes, but it pales in comparison to the mighty apple slice. It is said that a single apple per day will keep the doctor away. I know this personally because I have chucked apple slices at some of my family members when I was younger, and they ran away… and one of them was indeed a doctor. If you throw a slice of bread, it will attract birds, who in turn will attack you, and maybe even kill you if one is to believe Hitchcock’s The Birds bears any resemblance to reality. Apple slices also make the perfect on-the-go snack, and are like healthy candy for the body without any of the fake artificial stuff they put in white bread these days. And really, doesn’t it take more time to slice an apple than it does to slice a loaf of bread? 

Under guideline #1, if apples were sliced, you’d be saving a lot more time in the long run. “But bread is used in everything!” somebody might say. Sure, but most countries in Asia use rice as their staple grain, and other countries have created variations of bread that far outstrip typical sliced Wonder Bread (think of naan, injera, baguettes, etc.). So if we were going to select ONE THING to inherit the title of “best sliced thing”, our first nominee must be the apple. And before somebody brings up apple mold, bread also gets moldy. And it’s even worse with bread because it’s harder to tell. Besides, if the apple gets mold, just use it in composting; you’re helping the soil regenerate.

“It’s the best thing since sliced lists!”

Python Lists. Alright, here me out. You might be asking yourself, “What the hell is a programming language going to do to feed me?” Not much I presume, but it’s what it could do in the future that holds immense promise. Python and other programming languages are growing at an unprecedented rate, allowing calculations and computations exceeding the capabilities of even the best human minds. One of the critical functions of Python is the ability to make lists. To initiate a list, it takes like 10 seconds… watch: a = [1,2,3]. WOW! That was pretty fast! But let’s imagine making that same list, but with trillions, or even infinite amounts of numbers. What happens if we want to select for individual sections of a list? Guess what! You can slice it! By simply replacing the cutting functionality of a knife with the mighty colon (:), one can summon terms within a certain range of the list with a command as such: a[0:2]. Such a command will return the first element of the list (index 0) to the second element (index 1), with index 2 being non-inclusive. If we were really getting fancy, one can also slice matrices and vectors, and even slice these further with conditional statements that filter out only certain instances where that condition is met. Nobody wants to hear a ton of tech jargon forever, so I’ll just say that list slicing is incredibly powerful! 

Now look at that sliced loaf on your shelf. Can you select only the middle slices and not those weird slices at the ends of the loaf? Sure, but those end slices will always be there… haunting your dreams. That checks off guideline #2. Convenience-wise, this is a no-brainer. Who in their right mind would actively want to manually sort through millions of data points for the points of interest? Nobody! I can barely stay awake in a Zoom section for 50 minutes! Slicing a loaf of bread, on your own, is way more convenient. 

You might be saying to yourself, “What would pre-sliced Python objects even look like?” Well, much like a bakery is the one slicing the bread for the consumer, most development and slicing of these lists is done before the final product, paper, or website is shown to a consumer or investor. I’m fairly certain there are a lot of websites built on these principles of slicing that you probably don’t even realize! In this regard, isn’t the sliced list way better than a sliced loaf of bread? Imagine trying to browse Google results without any sorting options…it’s a fucking nightmare. With that we’ve checked off guidelines #1 and #3, and no doubt have outstripped bread as a potential heir to the slice throne.

“It’s the best thing since sliced pizza.”

Pizza. Picture in your mind pulling up into the driveway with some Woodstock’s pizza that’s wickedly overpriced for its quantity (it’s true and you know it). The aroma wafts through the air and the scent is practically begging you to open the box and scarf down a slice of that chessy, gooey pie. Frantically, you open the door and zoom to the kitchen counter, clearing everything off the table because it’s no longer important. You open the box and… the pizza isn’t sliced. So you search for a way to get equally spaced slices. Maybe a ruler, but who wants to do math when eating pizza? In the end, it’s more likely you try eyeballing it with a knife. While that works for some, the vast majority (including myself) end up with wildly differing lengths of slices that throw calorie control right out the window. Ah yes, 420 calories for this small triangle of pizza; and that slice that’s the size of New York, I bet that’s also 420 calories. The only reason we trust professionals to provide us with neatly portioned pizza is their bevy of tools to get the job done. The pie divider, the rolling slicer, and the confidence to slice should all be at the pizzeria. If you want to perfectly slice pizza on your own, chances are it’s going to be much more work than slicing a loaf of bread pre-mastication. This checks off guideline #1. 

While I have extolled some of the feats of sliced bread, is there really anything that a slice of pizza can’t do better? It’s literally bread, but better. It’s scientifically proven to be better than bread in every way. Why else did Galileo choose the Leaning Tower of Pizza (Pisa, for the more historically minded) for his gravity demonstration? He knew the power of the ‘za, and hid behind the misspelled name for eons in order to take this secret with him to his grave. Contrast pizza’s usefulness with bread’s utility—principally defined by its inherent lack of value. If I ever see somebody just eating a single slice of un-toasted white bread on more than one occasion (the first occasion is permitted so as to satiate morbid curiosity), I will dial the nearest INSTITUTION OF CONFINEMENT. When we were little, was it ever really a birthday party without pizza? I’m sure no parents were coming up with the bright idea, “yes, let’s serve these kids bland pieces of bread and have them make sandwiches!” A slice of pizza thus has more inherent utility than a slice of bread, fulfilling guideline #2. 

Finally, unless you want to die of heart disease even quicker, there’s not really much you can do with an unsliced pizza pie. I suppose one could fold it New York-style and attempt to finish it in one go, but that could never occur on a consistent basis. On the other hand, an uncut loaf of bread could be used as a sponge to clean up some spills such as marinara sauce, milk, or jam. You could also use a loaf of bread as a headrest or pillow for added support. If it really comes down to it, one might even consider a loaf a potential flotation device in case of being stranded at sea. So not only have we proven that sliced pizza is greater than sliced bread, but that unsliced bread is actually more useful than unsliced pizza with guideline #3. Once more, it seems bread simply isn’t “cut” out for this type of competition.

And for all my philosophers out there, perhaps the most ambitious contender for the spot is yet another idiom with a whole host of meanings…

“It’s the best thing since sliced humble pie.”

MMM… very delicious metaphor.

Humble pie. Yes, it already has its own idiom, but how can anyone argue that sliced bread is better than sliced humble pie? Let’s begin with guideline #2. Let’s say you have an asshole to deal with everyday. He/she is being a jerk, a dipwad, a doofus. What will you do? Will you feed them a slice of bread to soothe their temper? NO! You serve them a slice of humble pie, and they feel remorse, guilt, and the intense desire to better themselves. You can even add whipped cream to humble pie to make it easier to swallow, and best of all, as a metaphysical concept, you can literally make the vehicle of delivery anything you want. Domino’s delivery cars, Uber Eats, and Doordash pale in comparison to the power of the idiom. Clock the idiom within the idiom, Christopher Nolan. This sort of power is honestly terrifying, and a terrific reminder of why humble pie is a much better slice of phrase. 

Now, onto guideline #3. What’s so convenient about humble pie anyway? Well, you can’t always carry around a full humble pie, unless you happen to be some prophetic figure of messianic proportions, promising salvation to the masses and wielding a mystical ability to feed billions of people with very minimal amounts of food. Realistically, most people aren’t waltzing about with ideological frameworks, empirical examples, or counterpoints that will completely erase the essence of that person. And, to refer back to the original idiom, the purpose of only taking a slice of humble pie in the first place is to leave some for others. If we were to use one humble pie, then we’re selfishly taking away the possibility of humility for billions of other human beings. If I use an entire loaf of bread, there’s still plenty of bread to go around… Wonder Bread loves to remind me of that idea every damn commercial. Therefore, the sliced humble pie is more convenient. 

And finally onto guideline #1: Is the process of slicing humble pie harder than slicing bread? Obviously! Sometimes people have to eat more than one slice of humble pie, and on multiple occasions, in order to truly feel its effects. Each slice has to be prepared individually, packaged with precision, and delivered to the target with meaningful intent. Bread can be sliced with a knife. A FUCKING KNIFE! Yes, knives are dangerous, but if there’s one thing watching John Wick has taught me, it’s that literally anything is dangerous (look out for pencils). It would be way nicer if humble pie came pre-sliced already, and all I had to do was deliver it to the proper person. That would be just nifty!

As I digress from the discourse, I turn back again to the main course: what have we learnt about sliced bread? We’ve learnt that slicing your own bread is not that difficult, slices of bread don’t have much utility on their own, and actual unsliced loaves of bread are probably some of the best unsliced things you could have in your household. Why then is sliced bread considered the pinnacle of innovation? Spoiler: it’s not. Let’s review. Apple is one of the most influential corporations in America, and they probably want apples to be associated with their products rather than some unprofitable idiom. Python is a coding language that’s open source and available to everybody, so bakers would lose their monopoly on the commodity of interest. Pizza is the universal language of happiness, and the only reason it has yet to usurp bread is likely because it doesn’t have to… it’s just that fucking good.

And so, as my friend finished his fateful statement, I prepared myself for war. I shared with him the dangerous truth that I’ve just shared with you, and he… He fell out of his chair in uncontrollable laughter. His face contorted to obscene dimensions, tears streamed down his face, and then he mustered the courage to face the webcam once more. He stared at me and said:

“It sounds pretty stupid in theory, and it sounded even stupider as I heard it, but something about it makes sense. I can’t put my finger on it.”

Of course he couldn’t, because I just served him a slice of humble pie—the greatest thing since that other slice of humble pie.