The Power Of White Bread Essay

820 words - 4 pages

Little would one know that something as simple as the bread one uses to make their sandwich could cause so much havoc and debate in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. The debates over whether or not white bread was healthy, or whether homemade bread is healthier than store-bought bread consumed the minds of many Americans during this period. According to Aaron Bobrow-Strain, “well-meaning efforts to change the country through its bread ended up reinforcing forms of race, class, and gender exclusion – even when they also achieved much-needed improvements in America’s food system.” But what does this mean? Well, the varying belief on quality and health of bread was closely tied to who was making the bread. Through the production, distribution, and purchase of bread during the late 19th and early 20th century, one is able to discover the views on race and social class that surrounded the country during this period.
The outbreak of foodborne diseases influenced the nation to become concerned of germs in the presence of their cooking. Scientists during the late 19th century insisted that the mothers’ cooking did not do an adequate job of killing the bacterial microbes that were, in turn, killing the community. This belief of the scientists spread throughout America and resulted in a majority of people purchasing their bread from factories instead of homemaking it. However, germ suspicion continued to occur and America began to inspect the bakeries to ensure that they met healthy standards. Upon inspection, many of the committee members on the New York State Factory Investigating Committee believed that the real problem was the cleanliness of immigrant workers. For instance, “The city health commissioner, Ernest Lederle, argued cellar bakeries themselves were not the problem, the problem was that ‘the people were dirty and careless’” (Bobrow-Strain 39). This statement shows that immigrant workers were believed to be making the bread dirty. It is through this statement that one is able to see the xenophobia of America during this time. Bobrow-Strain even goes on to state “History suggests that anxiety about food contamination generally intensifies during periods of perceived upheaval: in moments of expanding globalization, rapid demographic changes, immigrant influxes, and swiftly evolving technology” (Bobrow-Strain 47). During the late 19th century and early 20th century, many of these factors, such as immigrant influxes and evolving technology, were occurring. Consequentially, the anxiety of unsanitary...

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