The whiter the bread the quicker you’re dead


Food and our approach to it is as political as ever these days. A new book by Aaron Bobraw-Strain called White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf  argues industrial white bread is a powerful indicator of our ever-changing notions of health, class, status, and race. Its release comes as sales of whole wheat bread have surpassed those of white bread for three consecutive years in the U.S.

Salon has excerpts. Here are a few highlights:

With the emergence of the “hippie” counterculture. (…) Changing diets had become an arena of politics in its own right — perhaps the arena. (…) As influential whole foods guru Beatrice Trum Hunter proclaimed, bread baking constituted “a revolt against plastic food in a plastic culture. The free-form loaf is but another aspect of the revolt against the mechanization of life.”


A Washington Post article commemorating the moment in 2009 when whole wheat bread sales surpassed white for the first time in U.S. history explained this reversal. Growing awareness of the importance of the fiber and nutrients found in whole grains played a role, but so did status aspirations. Today, the article observed, whole wheat bread “signifies the sophistication of your palate, your appreciation for texture and variety…. The grainier you like it, the more refined your sensibilities. The darker it is, the greater your chance for enlightenment.” Industrial white bread has completed its two-hundred-year trajectory from modern marvel to low-class item.

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The whiter the bread the quicker you’re dead

  1. You gotta’ be hurting if you have to buy, and read a book written about bread.

    •  As opposed to about what else? Neurochemistry? NASCAR?

  2. This is precisely why I don’t trust anything published by these liberal arts hippies.

    I eat whole grain because of health – not because of status.  I don’t see a preference for whole wheat or darker breads  (which I read is not actually that much healthier… it’s whole GRAIN) as a sophisticated palate.  I see it as a healthy choice.

    In fact, I love white bread.  I find it quite unfortunate that white bread isn’t healthier.  I see it as my luxurious indulgence.

    Anybody who sees this as a status thing belong to the same set who think that they are better than you because they like sitting in Starbucks in their hipster clothing, reading Nietzsche, and tweeting about the occupy movement.  The irony to this, of course, is their elitist attitude stems more from perception than any contribution that they have actually made in this world (like holding down a decent paying job as opposed to taking out loans to stay in school).  Which might be a reason for this reality that they have created in their own head.  If it sounds like I know too many of these people, I do. 

    • Yeomans work of of fitting in so many stereotypes in one short piece.

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