Packaged Bread

It’s happened. Packaged wheat bread passed packaged white bread in total dollar sales (year to year July 2009-2010), according to Nielson Co. It seems a lot of people are looking for healthier foods, and the focus on heart health, whole grains, fiber intake and better carbs has made effective inroads even into the old fashioned packaged sliced bread market.

Which is all fine. Tuna salad or sliced turkey on multi-grain has more flavor, and is more pleasantly chewy than the same sandwich made with soft white bread. For children who won’t eat meat, peanut butter on whole wheat is more nutritious than on white bread. And there are so many varieties of whole-wheat and multi-grain breads, it makes for more interesting sandwich combinations than there ever were.

But I grew up on Wonder Bread, the package with the red, yellow and blue balloons, the one that helped build strong bodies 8 ways, and then, just a few years later, miracle of miracles, helped build strong bodies in 12 ways.

Everyone I’ve ever met who knew the wonders of Wonder Bread knows that, nutrition aside, there was no better slice for certain kinds of sandwiches. My favorite, from the good old — or were they bad? — days, was the fried salami sandwich. My mother bought Hebrew National salami, sliced it really thin and fried the pieces to a crisp. She slathered the Wonder bread with French’s yellow mustard, tucked the salami slices in between and that was that.

The meat was leathery and hot, the bread luxuriously soft, the culinary equivalent of a baby’s “blankie.” When I picked the sandwich up and took the first bite, the heat — plus any of the meat’s remaining juices — plus the pressure from my fingers, made it all into a slippery mess. Yellow blotches splotched my hands, which probably reeked of meaty-garlic.

But, boy were those good!

And so too the Grilled Cheese, yes, so much better for you on whole wheat, but when made with Wonder bread, a true —- well, wonder. Soft, slithery in my throat. The better to gobble milk by.

I used to love tomato sandwiches on Wonder Bread too, but I have to say, after I tried hearty, bakery white put together with summer tomatoes and a dab of mayonnaise, I realized Wonder Bread’s limitations even for some of my favorites.

It’s good that Americans are waking up to the value of whole grains and seeking out more nutritious sliced bread. I do. My children do.

But I can say, if I ever decide to make myself a fried salami sandwich, it will be on Wonder white, complete with French’s yellow mustard.

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