(No, it wasn’t explorer Marco Polo who brought it back from China.) While he fiddled around with his invention as early as 1912, it wasn’t until 16 years later that he had perfected the machine and was prepared to introduce it to the general public, notably bakeries.
Starting in 1921, a local company in Indianapolis termed the
Taggart Baking Company marketed Wonder Bread sold in whole loaves. As the story goes, an executive of the company was watching hot air balloons floating across the sky and declared them a”wonder” and the name took off (not unlike a hot air balloon). When the Continental Baking Company purchased out Wonder Bread in 1925 and started selling it sliced a few years later, it turned into a revolutionary new product across the country. Homemakers loved the idea that it had been pre-sliced, in addition to its soft feel, which interpreted (and was encouraged ) as being fresh.
Obviously the bread had to be packaged, due to the pieces, so it was banned temporarily during WWII in order to conserve paper. But as the baby boomers went off to school, lunch boxes throughout the nation carried sandwiches made with Wonder Bread each day, and it was actually a miracle of the 1950’s. Much to the horror of white bread aficionados, WB vanished in 2012. It seems Hostess Brands (distributors of Twinkies and cupcakes) declared bankruptcy. But another firm, Flowers Foods, sprang to the rescue just a year later, once more stocking the shelves of supermarkets with the beloved white bread. (Phew… a year without Wonder Bread must have been stressed.)
What could be better than sliced bread? Close your eyes and envision the irresistible aroma of roasting peanuts. Already a favorite at ballparks and circuses, the humble peanut grew in popularity, and now peanut butter dominates the sandwich choices, smeared on white bread and perhaps covered with grape jelly. Although George Washington Carver is famous for his discovery of peanuts and their many applications, it was John Harvey Kellogg, founder of cold flaked cereals, who came up with peanut butter in 1895. Along with his brother, they improved their processing method. Originally the peanuts were steamed however a far more pleasing flavor emerged when roasted instead. The tasty nut butter supplied a fantastic protein for kids and older folks who could not chew meat.
In the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, lots of new foods were introduced, and alongside potato chips and waffle cones to hold ice cream, the smooth, creamy yummy peanut butter was a hit. Slap it on some bread, add jelly, and it provided wholesome rations to our soldiers in WWI. And once Wonder bread was introduced a couple of years later, the PB&J sandwich offered a good, easy and economical lunch for kids of all ages and became a staple for Americans.
When snack foods were popularized in the 1930’s, peanuts and peanut candies certainly were on the hit parade and now contain some of the most in-demand goods in the U.S.. We eat more than six pounds of peanut products annually per person, and that adds up to two billion dollars at retail. (Cha-ching.) Peanut butter alone constitutes about half of our annual consumption. The rest includes nut snacks, baked goods and candies. Not to be ignored, peanuts provide a popular cooking oil also, and a few fast food restaurants use it for frying.
So are you really a chunky or creamy fan? Can you eat it in sandwiches (white bread, of course) or just scoop it straight from the jar? With apple slices? We know that Elvis Presley’s favorite gourmet dish was fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, although we are not sure whether his cook used sliced white bread. Probably.