Could you live without sliced bread?

Sliced bread has been a staple of the American diet for almost a century. However, there was a brief period of time when sliced bread was banned in the United States, as Gastro Obscura explains. It happened during World War II, when many household goods were in short supply. While rationing of food, gasoline, and rubber products seems reasonable to support a war effort, it may seem strange to ban something as innocuous as sliced bread.

The person behind the ban, Claude R. Wickard, the secretary of agriculture and head of the War Foods Administration, reasoned that the ban would save on wax paper because sliced bread required more wrapping to stay fresh. He also reckoned that it would save steel from the manufacture of automated bread slicing machines.

Americans bristled at the idea. “I should like to let you know how important sliced bread is to the morale and saneness of a household,” wrote an indignant Sue Forrester from Fairfield, Connecticut, in a letter to the editor of The New York Times. She explained that because she had to slice bread for breakfast toast and sandwiches for her family of five, that meant 20 slices each morning, which was apparently a hardship for Ms. Forrester. The ban only lasted for a couple of months before the government abandoned the idea.

Seeing so many people return to home bread baking during the early days of the pandemic (a trend which continues, especially lately in Dorie Greenspan’s Bake and Tell group on Facebook), the notion of people being indignant over not having sliced bread seems silly. But given the outrage over basic pandemic measures, one can easily imagine the backlash if the government were to institute any such ban today, not to mention the rationing that was in place during WWII. It is difficult to conceive of the public coming together to support measures like that these days.

Post a comment


  • FuzzyChef  on  September 14, 2022

    I already live without sliced bread

  • anya_sf  on  September 14, 2022

    Since the pandemic I’ve made nearly all our sandwich bread from scratch. But I’m the only person in the house who is willing to slice it 🙂

  • GenieB  on  September 16, 2022

    When I was a child in the 50s and 60s, we bought all our bread from the neighborhood bakery. You waited your turn to be helped, picked out the loaves you wanted, and into the slicer they went. Magic! All the slices were the same size! Zap, it was done.

    At home, what wasn’t eaten that day went into the bread box. I don’t remember bread being wrapped in wax paper….

    Now I make my own bread, mostly because I make it gluten-free and commercial gluten-free breads are generally terrible. The slices do not turn out the same size! It takes a few minutes, especially if the loaf turned out particularly crusty. I cut it all at once and freeze the slices between little (cut) pieces of parchment paper.

  • Rella  on  September 17, 2022

    We make all the bread we eat, two loaves at a time. We freeze half of the slices for later. The slices that turn out thicker, just use them for French Toast. Cut up the crusty ends into cubes and freeze for use as croutons and for pappa al pomodoro.

  • MargaretM  on  September 18, 2022

    I grew up with unsliced bread. My mother had a home slicer which dealt with the bread for our school lunches very efficiently.

  • sayeater  on  September 21, 2022

    We don’t really eat “sandwich bread” so I usually buy the round artisan type loafs and cut as needed. But in the rare instance I want to make tea sandwiches (I love a good cucumber one) I’m happy to be able to purchase a pre-sliced loaf!

  • Rella  on  September 30, 2022

    In the 40’s my grandparents grew their own wheat, stored it, ground it, and ‘grandmother’ made bread on a wood-stove using their own wood. After WWI ended, store-bought bread became available, then all the family loved the squashy kind. I never did and have made my own bread for decades. YUM!

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!