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Goodbye Wonder Bread

  • Blog Post by: James Lileks
  • November 21, 2012 - 11:57 AM

Warning: this post may contain NSFW 1939 Scarecrow. Depending on where you W, of course.

THANKSGIVING TREATS Presented without comment: the Pumpkin Pie Martini.

Presented with comment: the Pumpkin Pie Martini, which is evil. The recipe, in part:

”Mix together two tablespoons of condensed milk with three tablespoons of pumpkin puree and a pinch of cinnamon, then mix together 2oz of vanilla vodka and 1oz of butterscotch schnapps.” 

This is not a martini. Ask yourself: would James Bond punch me hard in the face if he asked for a martini and I gave him this? If so, it is not a martini.

ALAS I just got a call from BBC Radio, wanting to know if I would be willing to talk about the demise of the Twinkie. I have a standing policy about doing BBC radio, which is “always.” They’re so well-spoken. As for the Twinkie itself, I’m torn: while I lament the loss of jobs and the disappearance of a cultural symbol, I haven’t had one in years, and have no desire to ever eat one again. I’m sadder about the loss of Wonder Bread.

Few consumables sum up the trajectory of 20th century culture like Wonder Bread. It was born as a scientific marvel - slo-baked! Bursting with nutrition! A shelf-life of nine years! When the World’s Fair opened in 1939, it seemed natural that this technological boon should have its own magnificent palace:

  

Designed in part by the great architect of office-block modernism, Louis Skidmore. Here’s a still from a home movie taken at the Fair:

 

 

Behind the pavilion: Wheat! 

 

 

Watched over by . . . 

 

 

The Scarecrow of Tomorrow.

 

 

Ahem.

In the 50s, the nutritional value was pushed in pamphlets handed out at the grocery store:

 

 

Calm down, kid. This seems to be rather bold claim:

 

Eventually the Boomers would come to deride the stuff as everything that was wrong with bread in specific and the culture in general - fake, commercial, mass-marketed banality with a goofy name. A synonym for something bland and safe. But once upon a time it was was, indeed, a Wonder. Towards the end they came out with healthier versions that packed in all the whole grains we’re supposed to have, but maintained the soft, pliable texture.

Bought a loaf once; fed it to my kid. She loved it.

Didn’t we all, once?

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