The Dish

Bread and Magic

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You’ve heard the sayings, “bread is the staff of life”, “bread is life”, and “bread is gold”.  They might seem old fashioned and cliché, but bread really does hold a great deal of meaning in our lives.  We break bread together to be close and for many of us, bread is a daily need and sometimes a daily ritual.

Blue background with the words Bread & Magic in white. Beside the words is a magic wand and stars floating from the star atop it.

When I was young, my mom would make my school lunch for me.  Commonly, I would get a lovely sandwich of two slices of whole wheat bread that contained delectable bits of meat from the previous night’s dinner.  If it was Monday my sandwich would be pot roast.  Tuesday would be meatloaf.  Wednesday could be a bit of tuna held back from the making of a tuna casserole.   But occasionally it would be peanut butter with homemade apricot jam.  Even though my sandwich was delicious, I always wished it was like the sandwiches my friends had, peanut butter with Welch’s grape jelly on the popular white sandwich bread of the time, Wonder Bread.

Image of Wonder Bread as it looked in the 1980's. Sliced white bread, packaged in clear plastic with white. Red, yellow, and blue balloons decorate the name "Wonder Bread".

Wonder Bread was what all my friends got and when I used to visit one of them and was offered a snack by their mom, it was Wonder Bread with peanut butter and grape jelly.  Those sandwiches always seemed so luxurious and comforting.   I don’t know exactly why I treasured those simple sandwiches.  Maybe it was Madison Avenue, or maybe it was simply having something like every one else.

what do you miss most?

Flash forward to my mid twenties and I found myself living in Hawaii.  Times were hard and I missed my family, my friends, and my beloved California.  It was early on a Saturday and a friend and I were talking about missing life in California, when the question came up, “What do you miss most?”

I sat quietly for a while and finally said “Wonder Bread”.  My friend laughed.  It was so absurd. I missed bread?

But I did.  It was one thing of comfort and normalcy I could not have in Hawaii. Because in 1982 Wonder Bread was not sold on the island of Oahu.  It was not made in Hawaii and it was not shipped in.

magic, luck, or miracle?

That same day I took the bus to the Moiliili Star Market to do my grocery shopping.  As I was heading to the check out, I remembered I needed bread and headed to that aisle.  The shelves were mostly empty, it now being later on a Saturday afternoon… and then I spotted it.  It was laying askew on the bottom shelf all by itself.  The red, yellow, and blue balloons were unmistakable… one single loaf of Wonder Bread.

I was gleeful!  Wow! They were selling Hostess products in Hawaii now!!!  I put it in the top basket of the cart and went for the grape jelly.

When I got to the checkout it was the last thing to be rung up.  But the bread would not scan.  The checker frowned and called the manager, who came over and asked where I got the bread. I told him it was in the bread aisle and was the last loaf there.   He looked at me and sternly said they do not sell Wonder Bread and that it was not available any where in the Hawaiian Islands.  

I insisted it must be a new product for them.  By now another cashier came to see what was going on.  She also said they don’t sell Wonder Bread and the manager then said something totally unbelievable to me. He said I brought it in from the Mainland into the store to prank them.  He instructed the cashier to not charge me for it and I was sternly told my joke was not funny and to take “my bread” and go home.

this was not a joke

Now, I want to be clear about this. I did not bring this bread from the mainland to prank this store. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, who knows me, knows I am not a prankster.

I went home thinking how lucky I was to get exactly the thing I had wanted so much and decided I’d shop at that store again to buy Wonder Bread.  But in the following two years that I lived in Hawaii, there was no Wonder Bread at that store or any store in The Islands. 

For years I’ve thought about this and I still don’t know what to conclude here. Was it really luck? Was it magic? It could be that in life you really do get what you need and what you want only at the exact moment it means the most to you. Or, it could be that there is magic and luck in this world brought to us by angels and guardians.

I only know two things for certain. This story is completely true… and I got the one and only loaf of Wonder Bread at a time when it meant the world to me.

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White Sandwich Bread

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Bread & Magic Sometimes you don\'t only get what you need. You also get what you want. My true story about being homesick and a simple loaf of bread.

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