What do people think of when they see hear the words “ white bread”? Today, bread is the center of conversations regarding carbohydric intake, nutritional value, and fat accumulation. Some suggest that a diet without bread altogether may be the key to a healthy and fit body. There are entire websites and nutrition books that consider the benefits of whole wheat bread over white bread or any other type of bread for that matter. It’s not only about bread either. People are obsessing over the caloric intake over the entire food pyramid and the benefits of eating more protein vs eating more carbs, and what type of carbs or the differences in good sugars vs. bad sugars. This is most likely the result of the well known “obesity problem” in America today. White bread is right in the middle of all this healthy diet conversation. Don’t get me wrong, there is unhealthy eating and there is healthy eating, but foods including white bread are now overlooked at the supermarket for more organic alternatives, or higher nutritional value alternatives, or simply more localized and unique products.
But if you asked someone 100 years ago what they thought of when they heard the words “white bread”, they might think not of nutritional value and caloric intake, but of some of the great achievements in western culture. White bread was a significant development in western society that is often overlooked. White bread came after the development of the milling process which was able set aside the bran and germ layers of the wheat-berry The milling process allowed for a longer shelf life by removing the natural oils from the whole grain. If you consider the time that the milling process became invented, most people were either home cooking their own bread, or it was cooked in urban city bakeries for the labor class in sanitary conditions described in Sinclair’s “the Jungle”. The emergence of white bread was symbolic of American industrialization and dominance. Although it may not have been healthy, it allowed people in times like the great depression to consume unspoiled bread cheaply. Eventually added nutrients and vitamins would be added to the white bread that was so heavily consumed to further enrich this symbol of American advancement.
In 2009, whole wheat bread sales topped that of white bread. People don’t consider white bread as a symbol of American advancement anymore, they think of chemical sanitizing and synthetic nutrients and high calories And maybe that is a reflection of our culture today. No one wants to support the big captain of industry type firms. They want to regress to family owned “small firms” and with it they want the organic family farm bread, and not the manufactured white bread. Industrialization was once the symbol of America and our backbone, but is just a memory of the past. People don’t want white bread because they think its unhealthy, but also because the externalities of industrialization are met with regret and the feeling of un-creativeness.