Browsing the dairy aisle today, I noticed the neon yellow tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! (yes, it has an exclamation point, as if Elaine Benes from Seinfeld had designed it). Not butter, you say? Really? Did you know they also sell Could it be Butter? (is that a rhetorical question?), as well as the not-so-grammatically correct Taste Like Butter, and You’d Think IT’S Butter! (again, the exclamation point for emphasis). Where is the label that says “I Don’t Believe For A Second It’s Butter”? I’d slap that right over each tub of Smart Balance or Country Crock (aptly named) or Parkay (mmm, mmm, vegetable oil spread). Reminds me of that Reddi Whip ad on tv where the waitress asks the customer if she prefers whipped cream or oil. Wouldn’t we all pick cream?
What does taste like butter is Land O’ Lakes. Because it is butter. I reach for the yellow and red rectangles at the store, and I like the little kneeling Indian woman on it, P.C. or not, just like I like Aunt Jemima and I like Uncle Ben, who BTW was a real man. And yes, sometimes, I bust out singing the chorus to “Kaw-Liga” as I toss it in my cart. I don’t care if it’s high in saturated fats and leads to heart disease because I love it. We accept the universal truth that things that taste good are usually bad for us.
Except in the case of white bread. White bread is processed and flavorless and nasty, basically without merit. Growing up, the choices at restaurants were always, “white, wheat or rye,” and I would choose wheat or rye because white is devoid of joy. It’s not that it’s associated with bologna sandwiches and demographics that include Honey Boo Boo, and it’s not the snobbery of growing up in a Whole Foods culture; it’s just that it’s patently gross. And it has the added bonus of high starch that converts into sugar and bang–you’re Paula Deen with diabetes. And you didn’t even get any fiber to make you regular.
Every Sunday after church, we go out for barbeque. The cashier totals up the bill and then raises a loaf of white bread and asks how much we want. We get two slices per person, so that we can each construct a little brisket sandwich with pickles, onions, and barbeque sauce. There is no choice, not even in Whole Grain Hippietown. It’s white or nothing. And though I wish wish wish they would offer another option, I realize that would drive the price up, and I respect the right of the small businessman to make his own choices. And granted, they are not chintzy with the bread. I imagine if you requested an entire loaf, they’d throw it in the basket, but who on earth would? That’s what I don’t get.
As I bite into my brisket sandwich, the first thing that happens is the white bread comes into contact with saliva and immediately converts into a gummy paste that sticks to the top of my mouth. By the time my tongue has succeeded in prying it off, it is too tired to chew. I have to give my tongue a rest and sip iced tea for a solid minute, while my insulin levels spike and I try to avoid a coma.
Do people who like white bread only like it out of nostalgia, because they pledged allegiance to it in their childhood? Is it a comfortable memory, associated with pimento cheese sandwiches and mayonnaise? I’m not convinced it’s purely social strata. Maybe people who enjoy white bread are the same people who order cheese pizza with no toppings, or hamburgers, just meat and bun. People who insist on no variety, no spice of life. Now, look, it’s different if you have some sort of allergy that prevents you from eating wheat. But I’m talking in a world of pure freedom of choice, a world that offers rosemary sourdough and Jewish rye –why pick white?