The Life of Bread This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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     The most enduring symbol to which humanity aspires cannot be found in any biographical record, is not celebrated in any memorial hall, has not been allotted even half a page in any history book. No, in fact, you need look no further than your dinner table to find this beacon of enlightenment.

Tasteful in its tastelessness, strong in its interdependency, bread is what we humans strive to be. Bread could never exist by itself, yet few foods could exist without bread. Would we ever eat jam, peanut butter, marmalade, BLTs, eggs Benedict, or a host of other staples were it not for bread? Yet notice that, while ever-present in the human diet, bread allows other foods to get the credit. Why do American children eat “peanut butter and jelly,” and not “peanut butter and jelly on bread”?

Still, bread never gets indignant at its lack of fame; in fact, it cherishes anonymity, hiding under massive hamburger patties, sneaking its way onto restaurant tables in a napkin-covered basket, or smothering itself in flavorful paste. Bread is the Gandhi of food, denying itself for the betterment of its peers, sacrificing itself to help all other foods, and allowing its peer dishes to receive all the glory.

Bread is the vehicle with which I absorb most of my daily sustenance, the staple of every meal, the element capable of fastening food into my intestinal system and my family members to the dinner table. Of course, bread itself is a broad term; grocery store aisles that are dubbed “Bread” often hold everything from pasta to cereal. But this lax nomenclature does injustice to the beauty that is bread in its truest form: that paper-flat concoction of yeast and grain, dignified enough to grace steakhouse tables, benevolent enough to serve as the dietary staple of prison life, modest enough to maintain its edibility even in the midst of conditions so unsanitary that filet mignon would cringe at the mere thought.

I could not eat without bread. Notwithstanding the fact that it is the

foundation of our food pyramid, I have simply become accustomed to draping everything with a succulent slice of yeast-risen grain. Pork, chicken, eggs, sausage, potato salad, mashed potatoes, beans, soup, even spaghetti - never can I eat these foods alone, but I must have a slice of bread at my side.

Bread is the dietary manifestation of reason itself. When a food gets out of hand and starts ravaging oral cavities with undesired spices, bread is there to calm it down. When someone needs to get lettuce, tomato, chicken, and mayonnaise into his mouth at the same time, bread’s got the answer. During a bout of indigestion or acid reflux, bread is the paramedic, absorbing the painful acid within itself. But, most importantly, bread makes sure that, while the money and praise are lavishly doled out to the marinated lobster tails and filet oscars, the real substance is in the simplicity.

I consume about two-thirds of my foods in sandwich form, even though most foods are rarely presented to me as such. My dietary dependency on bread actually stemmed from my stepfather, whose attempt to make a macaroni and cheese sandwich remains a memory that has clung to my nostalgic glands since childhood. Eating dinner with my family pretty much every night of my life has been integral in my personal development. And, of course, a loaf of bread is the centerpiece, holding together our family as deftly as it does our turkey-and-stuffing sandwiches. As I look back to my childhood for guidelines to raise my own set of descendants, my mind will undoubtedly revert to an image of that gleaming loaf of self-sacrificing goodness, begging us to embellish our morsels with a slice from its warm belly, desiring only to serve.

If bread were to somehow become extinct, society as a whole would crumble. Our food pyramids would collapse. Spicy foods would get out of hand without it. Sandwich shops would shut down, putting countless people out of work. Indigestion would go un-checked, ravaging the human population. Yet, worst by far, we would lose one of our best examples of the values of self-sacrifice. Bread has stayed modest even in its prevalence; it continually lays its own life and pride on the line for our well-

being and enjoyment, and for the advancement of culinary activities as a whole. Without bread, not only would we be stripped of our dietary staple, but we would also be stripped of one of the most beautiful manifestations of altruism the world has to offer.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the October 2007 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.






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megannnwow said...
Oct. 20, 2008 at 11:32 pm
This is (arguably) one of the funniest things I've ever read. I don't know where you got the idea, but you are unspeakably clever. Keep writing. Please. :]
 
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