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Tuesday 14 August 2018

Praise be our saviour: sliced pan

Kirsty at large...

Pan-demonium: stocking up on bread has left shelves bare
Pan-demonium: stocking up on bread has left shelves bare
Marty Morrissey bows out on DWTS
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Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Well, if the The Beast from the East (a much more ominous sounding name than Storm Emma, I think we can agree) has taught us anything - aside from the apparent impact of global warming - it is the adrenaline-filled joys of panic shopping.

Supermarkets were decimated as we hurtled around throwing cans of soup, gallons of milk, batteries, wine, torches, spam, loo roll and twine into trolleys.

The Great Outdoors was jammed with people stockpiling puffa jackets; Pamela Scott started selling bum sledges; and people ran through the streets screaming manically about fleece jackets and snow grips. It was magical.

But the stand-out event during the frantic panic shopping spree must be the Great Bread Rush of 2018 - or, if you prefer, Armabreadon.

During this time of trouble our deep-seated love of sliced pan came to the fore.

We often like to think of ourselves as a people who have outgrown white slabs of processed bread.

That's not totally surprising. In recent years, white bread has become the persona non grata of the carb world. No one can bad mouth it fast enough.

Clean-eating evangelists like Roz Purcell or the Hemsley Sisters are constantly pointing out it's nothing but stodge and empty calories, and encouraging us to eat toasted slabs of sweet potato covered in cashew nut butter instead. Not today, Satan.

Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood advocated the health benefits of buying 'Real Bread', rather than mass produced machine bread - a campaign that just happened to coincide with the launch of his own line of artisan rolls.

Eating mass-processed bread became comparable with smoking unfiltered cigarettes, or brushing your teeth with hooch. Uncouth, and unhealthy.

And, after a while, sales of sliced pan started to tumble. M&S stopped stocking their plain white pan, the phrase "the best thing since sliced bread" was rendered obsolete, and we patted ourselves on the back for moving on to bigger and better things.

Namely, artisan breads - the sourdoughs, the knotted loafs, and the almond-dusted gluten-free brioche buns.

But when the Beast from the East hit, we left our notions at the door.

We went into a blind impulse-buy frenzy - the sort of logic-free shopping that typically only surfaces on Christmas Eve and the night before Good Friday.

Bread aisles were raided and sliced pans stocked up on. Gluten-free sections remained full - proof that most of us are only pretending to be coeliac.

Pockets of pitta

By lunchtime on Tuesday, pictures of barren shelves, bar a few pitta pockets, were doing the rounds.

Brennan's were working a mile a minute and said bread sales had boosted by 40pc.

People started 'selling' loaves on DoneDeal. "€50 a loaf, no negotiation, no time wasters," one ad stated.

Another was offering individual slices for a tenner. That's inflation for you.

Blinded by the snow and terrified by Met Éireann horror, sliced pan had become the answer to all our woes.

It has been recognised once again as the king of comfort food.

Squidgy and soft and bad for you, but quite perfect for boiled eggs and soldiers, or toasting and slathering in salted, melted butter (less gaps and holes than sourdough).

Perfect for holding all and any sandwich fillers - ham, chicken stuffing, fish fingers, chips, crisps; it sops up gravy from your roast, and is the ideal fry-up accompaniment.

You can dunk crusts into hot chocolate, or cover it in honey, thick-cut marmalade or spoonfuls of Nutella.

Everything tastes better with cotton wool white bread. Hopefully, it stays in favour after the frost melts.

A highfalutin history of the pretentious job title

Different strokes: A Delineator of the Natatorial Science at work

Millennials and tech-heads get a lot of flak for their makey-uppy job titles.

These days, all of the following are considered sustainable careers: 'Wedding Hashtag Generator', 'Emoji Translator', and an office 'Vibe Manager'.

Job spec for the latter include researching chair massages, and organising staff nights out.

Microsoft have a Galactic Viceroy of Research Excellence, while AOL have a Digital Prophet on their books. I think she/he scours the internet for future memes. I must admit I'm a total sucker for these job titles. Not because I think the person is in any way superior or more learned.

No, it's because, well, can you imagine having the self-confidence to get 'Digital Prophet' printed on a business card and doling it out? Much more impressive than scribbling your name and number on the back of a Boots No7 voucher.

The desire to make ourselves sound more highfalutin is nothing new. In fact, the Victorians were the high masters of the pretentious job title.

This week, I chatted to historian Dr Alun Withey who is a specialist on the subject. He says Victorians were ahead of creative HR departments. Back then, a Tripocoptontic Perruquier made wigs, a Couranteer was a journalist, while a Delineator of the Natatorial Science was a swimming instructor. "Around the time of the industrial revolution, people were trying to up their game. So they used polite and elegant language to make themselves sound distinguished and important," he said. "They tended to use lots of syllables and Latin sounding word to give the impression they were worldly and exotic."

I guess some things never change. "It's similar to today, although now it's companies trying to make positions sound more appealing".

I get that, and although I agree that Delineator of the Natatorial Science sounds better than Pool Boy, does Vibe Manager really outflank Office Manager? Or do you just sound like a bit of an eejit?


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