The Time the U.S. Government Banned Sliced Bread

iStock.com/scorpp
iStock.com/scorpp

Around 1928, a Missouri jeweler named Otto F. Rohwedder invented the automatic bread-slicing machine and became the darling of American kitchens. Bakeries began advertising the pre-cut loaves as "the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped," prompting Americans to coin that immortal phrase: "The greatest thing since sliced bread."

But America's love of sliced bread wouldn't stop the government from later banning it.

Starting January 18, 1943—the midst of World War II—sliced bread was barred from American bakeries and homes. New baking regulations set by the Office of Price Administration had boosted flour prices, and the government wanted to prevent these costs from getting passed down to the consumer. By banning the use of expensive bread-slicing machines, the government was hoping bakeries could keep their prices low. Officials were also worried about the country's supply of wax paper—and sliced bread required twice as much paraffin wrapping as an unsliced loaf. (It prevented the slices from drying prematurely.)

The decision was extremely unpopular. On January 26, Sue Forrester of Fairfield, Connecticut wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times complaining on behalf of the country’s housewives [PDF]. "I should like to let you know how important sliced bread is to the morale and saneness of a household," Forrester wrote, saying she was forced to hand-cut more than 30 slices of bread every day for her family. It was a waste of American time and energy, she argued. It was also a waste of money: A good bread knife was difficult to find, let alone afford, during the war.

The rule was so disliked that nobody in the government apparently wanted to confess to having the idea. The ban was ordered by Food Administrator Claude R. Wickard, but the office of Price Administration blamed the idea on the agricultural department, which blamed the baking industry.

"The 'off-again-on-again' ban on sliced bread today has all the earmarks of a bureaucratic thriller," Illinois's Belvidere Daily Republican reported. "The mystery over 'whodunnit' in the first place is surprised only by the confusion in high places and the pointing of fingers at the next guy or any one within pointing distance."

The rule also apparently took everybody by surprise. (Or, as the Daily Republican put it, "[B]akers were caught with their wrappers down, so to speak.") According to the Chicago Tribune, "[T]he governmental ban on the sale of sliced bread, effective yesterday, caught hundreds of Chicago housewives by surprise and sent them scurrying to hardware stores to raid depleted supplies of bread knives."

The ban applied to everybody except hotels, restaurants, and railroad dining cars, which were awarded a 60-day reprieve to prepare. Bakeries that refused to abide by the regulation and continued using their bread slicers faced steep fines. The New York Area Supervisor of the Food Distribution Administration, John F. Conaboy, warned bakeries that the government was "prepared to take stern measures if necessary."

But even the law's biggest proponents couldn't seem to get behind it. Emil Fink, a prominent baker and member of the New York City Bakers Advisory Committee, pushed hard for the bread-slicing ban. But one year later, Fink was in court—for slicing bread. According to The New York Times, a U.S. Attorney chastised the bakery-owner: "[Fink] called upon the Government to enforce the regulation rigidly and, at that very time, his bakery was violating the law." Fink was fined $1000.

According to a February 1943 report in the Harrisburg Telegraph, the ban wasn't even saving money—in fact, bakers in the area saw sales drop as much as 5 or 10 percent. "While all bakers have varied reasons for the prevailing decrease, they all agree that the absence of sliced bread is at least playing some part in the drop," the paper reported.

Not only did the rule fail to save money, it didn't even save that much wax paper. On March 8, 1943, the ban was rescinded, prompting jubilant headlines across the country. As The New York Times trumpeted: "Sliced Bread Put Back on Sale; Housewives' Thumbs Safe Again."

Ninja’s Hot & Cold Brewed System Is the Only Coffee Maker You’ll Ever Need

Amazon
Amazon

Update: The glass-carafe version of the Ninja Hot & Cold Brewed System is currently on sale for $99 (a 50 percent discount) on Amazon and Walmart. That's the cheapest price we've ever seen, so grab it while you can. The thermal-carafe version is on sale on Amazon for $168, a 27 percent discount.

For people who just want a cup of joe to help them get out the door in the morning, the French presses, Chemexes, Aeropresses, Moka pots, and other specialized devices that coffee aficionados swear by probably seem more overwhelming than appealing. Ditto the fancy cappuccino machines at local cafes. That’s where Ninja’s new Hot & Cold Brewed System comes in: It was created to give coffee addicts a myriad of options with minimal fuss, not to mention minimal equipment. And it makes tea, too!

“Coffeehouses are known for having an endless selection, but current at-home brewers haven't given users the vast variety of choice we thought possible, and certainly not all in one product," Mark Rosenzweig, CEO of SharkNinja, said in a press release. "The Ninja Hot & Cold Brewed System changes the category entirely. This innovative system is more than just a machine you use in the morning; it's your all-day brewing partner.”

The Hot & Cold Brewed System comes with two baskets: one for coffee and one for tea. It knows what you're making to make based on the basket you insert, and the available options for that basket will light up. The machine allows the user to make six different sizes of coffee or tea, from a single cup all the way up to a full 50-ounce (10-cup) carafe.

And of course, as the name suggests, the system can make both hot and iced beverages. For coffee, it has five brew options: classic, rich, over ice, cold brew, and specialty (a concentrated brew for milky drinks like cappuccinos). If you’re making tea, you can choose between hot and cold brews optimized for herbal, black, oolong, white, or green tea.

When you select an over ice or cold brew, the machine automatically doubles the strength of your beverage so it doesn't get overly diluted by the ice cubes in the carafe. Even better, the Ninja can make cold brew in just 10 to 15 minutes, whereas other systems and methods typically take hours. (Hot coffee is brewed at 205°F, while the cold brew is made at 101°F.) And the system has a hot and cold frother that folds into the side so you can make barista-level lattes, too.

These bells and whistles sound impressive on paper, but how do they perform in real life? Ninja sent me Hot & Cold Brewed System to test for myself.

Ease of Use

Though it might look like something developed by NASA, the Hot & Cold Brewed System is designed to easily work with the twist of a dial and the push of a button, and it delivers. From loading in the correct amount of grounds with the system’s “smart scoop” to picking what type of brew you’d like, it’s simple enough to use even while bleary-eyed in the morning. It’s also easy to schedule a delayed brew so you can do the rest of your morning routine while your coffee brews. (Here’s the only drawback I can think of about this machine: When it starts brewing, it’s kind of noisy—loud enough to make my cats jump. It’s not a dealbreaker, but if you live in a small apartment and plan to brew coffee so that it’s ready right when you wake up, it might be something to consider.)

The system even tells you when it needs to be descaled. The “clean” button will light up, at which point you simply fill the water reservoir with descaling solution and water and press the clean button. A countdown lets you know how much longer the clean cycle will last.

Taste and Flavor

I swapped out an old, cheap coffee maker for the Hot & Cold Brewed System, and the difference was immediately noticeable. Whether hot or cold, the coffee made by the H&CBS was a better, smoother cup of joe. That’s due to what Ninja has dubbed Thermal Flavor Extraction automated brewing technology, which, according to a press release, “knows the precise temperatures, correct bloom times, and proper levels of saturation for every possible beverage combination to ensure a great taste every time.”

Whatever tech they use, it works. The coffee I make in this machine is consistently tasty. The rich brew setting works exactly as advertised, too, providing a richer, bolder flavor than the classic brew.

Features and Accessories

One of the best things about the H&CBS is the fact that it cuts down on waste significantly. Unlike other machines, it doesn't require any plastic pods or paper filters. Instead, it comes with two permanent filters, one for coffee and one for tea.

And the cold brew function is a game changer if you prefer iced coffee to hot. Not only does it brew quickly, but it eliminates the messy cleanup that comes with making cold brew yourself.

Typically priced at $230 for the thermal carafe version (or $200 for the glass carafe), the Hot & Cold Brewed System is significantly more expensive than a simpler drip coffee machine. But if you’re a cold brew addict looking to treat yourself, it’s worth it. Consider springing for the slightly more expensive thermal carafe model, which will keep your java hot or cold for hours. (I’ve left ice in it overnight and found cubes the next morning.)

You can get the Hot & Cold Brewed System on Amazon, Walmart, Macy's, or directly on Ninja’s website starting at $160.

Fuel Your Cold Brew Obsession With This Elegant, Efficient Coffee Maker

Brrrewer
Brrrewer

The sun is scorching, the days are endless, and the gentle clinking of ice cubes in a glass of cold brew coffee sounds like chimes at the gates of heaven itself.

A beverage so divine deserves to be created by a machine to match, right? Meet Brrrewer, a coffee maker that will provide you with the smoothest, sweetest, richest cold brew coffee you’ve ever had—and it’ll do it in just four hours.

Brrrewer uses the cold drip method to brew coffee in which coffee grounds are suspended between two microfilter membranes. Water is poured over the top membrane, then slowly filters through the coffee grounds and drips out from the bottom membrane. The top membrane ensures that the water is evenly distributed among the coffee grounds, and the bottom membrane allows only the water-turned-coffee to fall into the carafe below, without any of the gritty residue. (That gritty residue is often a result of the full immersion method, which is popular among those with French presses; basically, you just steep your coffee grounds in cold water for 12 to 24 hours, strain out the grounds, and drink.)

The carafe is encased in a second layer of glass, providing thermal insulation and keeping your coffee cold for longer than a regular glass bottle or pitcher. And you can cross “coffee filters” off your shopping list—the microfilter membranes do that job already.

The Italy-based team at Essense designed Brrrewer with elegance and minimalism in mind, so it won’t throw off the aesthetic groove of your kitchen. In fact, it might enhance it. Also, it’s manufactured from a combination of borosilicate glass and BPA-free Tritan plastic; in other words, it’s extra-sturdy and environmentally friendly.

Mixologist Francesco Corona, five-time Italian “Coffee in Good Spirits” champion and world championship finalist, worked with Essense to develop special cocktail recipes for Brrrewer, which you can find in the paperback book, available on its own for $17 or with Brrrewer (the book and coffee maker combo is $78). Order Brrrewer by itself for $67 here, or see other purchase options from Kickstarter.

If four hours is more than you’re willing to wait for cold brew, check out Ninja’s Hot & Cold Brewed System, which can make it in about 15 minutes.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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