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Harris Blackwood: Sliced bread is the greatest thing since ... well, you know

I must confess I love bread.

I do not like whole wheat or gluten-free or multigrain. I love sliced white bread in a fresh loaf.

I count among my heroes the great Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa. Perhaps you don’t remember Otto, but he is the man who gave us sliced bread. His first prototype bread slicer was destroyed in a fire in 1912. He did not make another machine until 1928.

Between 1912 and 1928, people in Davenport could not say, “That’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.” Their only measurement was the fire that burned up Otto’s original bread-slicer.

“That the greatest thing since Otto’s slicing thingamajig burned up in the fire,” they would say. I have been looking for a way to use the word “thingamajig” in a column. There you go.

Some poor Davenport toddler, who had a slice of Otto’s original sliced bread, would be in high school before he had another. He would almost be old enough to drink, but that was prohibited at the time. Davenport is known as “Iowa’s Front Porch.” I thought you might like to know that.

Just as Otto got the machine going again, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. People waited for food in bread lines. I don’t know if it was a slice or a full-loaf, but bread was a part of the meager sustenance available during the hard times.

Just as folks were learning about sliced bread and coming to enjoy it, World War II broke out.

In 1943, Claude R. Wickard, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and head of the War Food Administration, ordered a stop to commercial sliced bread. He claimed it would save tools and wax paper.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Claude until now. He was never inducted into the sliced bread hall of fame.

Less than two months later, that wicked old Wickard reversed his action and we have never been without sliced bread since. I wonder if his wife, Louise, had anything to do with that?

During this Lenten season, I am staying away from bread. Sliced, baked, wonderfully fresh bread is off the menu until Easter.

Bread has a prominent place in the time leading up to Jesus going to the cross.

Jesus had spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. When he came out of the wilderness he was hungry. The devil said, “If you’re God’s son, why don’t you turn these rocks into bread?”

Jesus offered that famous reply, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”

I have not been living by bread alone, but I had several servings a day. The good news is that by giving up bread, I have shed a few pounds. I asked my wife if she thought I had lost weight.

“Whatever you think, honey,” she said as she ate a hamburger with bun. I was sitting there eating a burger, sans bun.

Before we get to Easter, I have to go to the doctor for a checkup. I hope that my weight is more golf score than bowling score.

I’m looking forward to the day we celebrate the risen Lord. I’m going to celebrate with some risen dough, coated with creamy butter and maybe a dab or two of jelly.

Somebody say Amen.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose column publishes on Sundays.

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