Day 1: What is bread?

I told a friend today that I was avoiding sliced bread for Lent and that I had a panini for lunch. Or panino, if you will. I was reminded, however, that panini is a type of bread. In a panic, I checked the definition on (where else?) Wikipedia:Bread, on Wikipedia

…a sandwich made from a small loaf of bread.

Argh. Failure at the very start. But is it sliced bread?

The loaf is often cut horizontally and filled with salami, ham, meat, cheese or other food, and sometimes served hot.

Phew – you cut a panini, rather than slicing it. I’m safe.

But it raised the fundamental question of what exactly bread is. Or rather, what the term includes. Wikipedia defines it as baked, steamed or fried dough, usually comprising flour, water and yeast, which is rather dangerously all-encompassing.

It reminds me of the episode from Red Dwarf when Kryten repairs the rather demented and toast-obsessed A.I. toaster, very much against Lister‘s wishes.

TOASTER: Howdy doodly do! How’s it going? I’m Talkie – Talkie Toaster, your chirpy breakfast companion. Talkie’s the name, toasting’s the game. Anyone like any toast?

LISTER: Look, I don’t want any toast, and he [indicating Kryten] doesn’t want any toast. In fact, no one around here wants any toast. Not now, not ever. No. Toast.

TOASTER: How about a muffin?

LISTER: OR muffins! OR muffins! We don’t LIKE muffins around here! We want no muffins, no toast, no teacakes, no buns, baps, baguettes or bagels, no croissants, no crumpets, no pancakes, no potato cakes and no hot-cross buns and definitely no smegging flapjacks!

TOASTER: Ah, so you’re a waffle man!

The Bible is not much clearer – one of the early references to bread in Genesis offers very little detail as to the ingredients, and later there is mention of bread both with and without yeast. Still pretty broad.

Now, either I convene a meeting of the world’s finest bakers and theologians to debate the issue, or I play safe over Lent by avoiding any bread or bread-related products that are in any way sliced.

But that doesn’t make sense – bread usually means the regular, normal, bread-shaped loaves that you get in shops. Rolls, bagels, and so on are generally known by those names and not as “bread”. Therefore I think the conventional idea of sliced bread (a large loaf of whatever shape, from which you get slices of bread), should be the target of my abstinence.

So that means today’s panino was a close shave – a sort of bread, but not actually, primarily, bread. And almost, but not quite, sliced.

Which brings me to my next dilemma – what, technically, is slicing? Watch this space.

18 thoughts on “Day 1: What is bread?

  1. In your wikipedia trawl shurely you didn’t miss:

    Although the line “Jesse Shiflett is a hero. thank you Do not change this page it is copyrighted by Jesse Shiflett.” does make me wonder about the authenticity of the claims.

    Also there is a Dilbert cartoon somewhere in the world where the inventor of the bread slicing machine exclaims “my new invention ‘sliced bread’ is the best thing since ….” .

    Perhaps you could give up all things sliced, all things bready, all things invented after 1917 and anything anyone describes as “the best things since…”. If it’s good enough for David Blane then why not?


  2. I have no idea about the technicalites or legalities of ‘slicing’…but I forsee disagreement and division (even schism) over this vital issue.

    Red Dwarf on the other hand – brilliant, off to dig out my series one videos (yes I’m that old) and find that toaster episode…

  3. Bread. Usually with yeast. So… would communion wafers count or some other baked flat-bread things (never mind the word bread in the title) like chapatis that have no yeast?

  4. Ross – whatever Wikipedia said that seems out of place, it’s been cleaned up. Thanks for the link though – no, I never saw it. I did find this, though. And thanks for the David Blaine idea… maybe next year!

    Danny – sorry to show you up, but that Toaster episode is from “White Hole”, series 4, and the two previous episodes it featured in were in series 1 before Kryten came in. I know, I’m an anorak…

    And Poppadom – yeah wafers count, because they’re not bread (in the meaning I adopt above) and aren’t sliced. Only RC churches seem to have them. Maybe I should lobby St Silas to introduce chapatis… or even mini-poppadoms…

  5. Excellent…don’t have to find aged videos afterall… series 4 is on DVD … more recent purchase by my children who love it!! And yes you are an anorak, but even I should have remembered that Kyrten wasn’t in series one…was focused on the toaster!!

    So I know nothing about slicing or Red Dwarf… I will now slink off in shame…

  6. Guys, I hate to spoil the party. I just don’t believe in Lent. Simon, you are fretting over nothing. Free yourself from your bondage to human imposition and tradition…

  7. I think your definition of sliced bread should be in keeping with the phrase you started with “the best thing since….” In this why is sliced bread the best thing? Because it’s pre-sliced. So if you buy a whold loaf and slice it yourself that should be fine. If you order a sandwich look to see if they are cutting the bread themselves or if it’s coming from a plastic sleeve already pre-sliced then run away.

    I too thought of giving something up for lent but coming from a North American Baptist church it’s not a tradition that’s been practiced. I had a conversation with a friend of mine last year over this as well and the general concensus was we shouldn’t be giving up something, but rather giving ourselves over to Jesus. He wants us, not our sacrifice. So I’m trying to think of what I can ‘do’ rather than what I can give up.

  8. perhaps the clue should be slicing. A loaf can be sliced into many slices where as a bagel or roll or panini is sliced once into two halves so thats ok.
    Infact everything in Lister’s rant apart from toast and including waffles fits so maybe giving up bread isn’t so hard after all!

  9. Sorry Simon, I’m afraid a panini, a bagel, a roll, a seedless batch, a maltloaf, a baguette, a softie are ALL bread. Does it not defeat the object of the whole exercise if your constantly picking loopholes in the original idea? Surely the real challenge would be to go without bread and any of the other contentious breadlike products……there are plenty of alternatives….potatoes, rice, pasta, couscous etc etc. Although, admittedly, none of the above is quite as good for making a sandwich!

  10. According to the message board on the Archers’ website (!!!), you don’t have to fast on Sunday – so you can eat sliced bread til the cows come home on Sunday!! There’re also rice cakes and oatcakes which make a sort of sandwich!!

  11. Simon: Actually most pisky churches use wafers for communion too.

    It’s these pesky pisky evangelical churches that seem to insist on feeding me little chopped up bits of slices from a pan loaf and telling me it’s communion. I think I understand their reasons, but I’m not keen on it, personally. 🙂

  12. We don’t have wafers or cubes of bread at my joint. There is just a whole cob loaf that the Pastor breaks up into large chunks and then we rip our own piece from that.

    So, you’d be fine to come and have communion with us whenever you like Sim cuz it’s not sliced {:->

  13. Pingback: Day 10: Communion quandry « Simon Varwell’s blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *