The Worst Things Since Sliced Bread

The bread slicer was invented--where else?--in Iowa in 1912, but was not put into commercial operation until 1928.  As anyone who knows anything about anything knows, the sooner bread is sliced, the sooner it starts to dry out and go off.  This means,  inevitably, that preservatives had to be added, and it may partly explain why Americans were taught to prefer a breadlike product with excessive moisture and lots of air whipped into the batter.  The result --bread that is nothing like bread--is one of the most sinister contributions made by the 20th century.

But sliced bread is not alone. How about homogenized peanut butter or, especially, Jiff?  They take the invention of a great man, George Washington Carver, who crushed and whipped peanuts to make a delicious and healthful spread, sucked out the valuable and wholesome peanut oil, replace it with the inedible oil of soybeans or cottonseeds, then add stabilizers and sugar.  Yum.

Perhaps you prefer a sandwich spread popular here in the Midwest:  bologna salad.  How better to accompany a Miracle Whip, sweet pickle, and bologna sandwich that a bottle of carbonated toxic waste.  After all, "Coke Is It," the pause that refreshes, though not the poison of choice for members of "The Pepsi Generation."  What could possibly make a carbonated beverages even fouler than they are?  Make them sugar-free, full of toxic chemicals like saccharine or aspertame.  Not surprisingly, there is no evidence that fatties lose weight by switching to diet drinks.  Apparently the body, by drinking diet sodas,  is taught to crave sweets.  Observe the people at Dunkin Doughnuts putting nutrasweet in their coffee.

Of course if the truly health-unconscious will make sure that they are drinking decaf coffee--another 20th contribution to the end of civilized life.  Throw in filter cigarettes.  They taste terrible and have to be pumped up with toxic chemicals to boost the flavor.  But the best part is that all the evidence that filter cigarettes are less toxic than "straights" comes from smoking machines.  In fact, people who engage in protected smoking suck harder on the cigarette in a generally successful effort to get enough nicotine.

I could literally go on all day, whining about milkshakes with seaweed instead of ice cream, pizza with sweet sauce, carob brownies, flavored yoghurt, childproof bottles, Public Radio and other state media--and, if we want to get really serious--vegan diets and sex without babies.  "But the task of filling up the blanks I'd rather leave to you.  What are your nominations for the worst things invented since sliced bread?

Avatar photo

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

63 Responses

  1. Harry Colin says:

    This list might be endless, but I can at least begin with”self-checkout” devices; an invention from deep inside one of Dante’s Inferno circles. Another spawn from that same location is the ubiquitous answering system used by all corporations and far too many smaller businesses, too, sadly. “Press one for English” has to be the most evil and irritating sentence in modernity.

  2. Allen Wilson says:

    Let’s see: process cheese food product; video games; soy anything; corn syrup; MSG; consolidated school systems; Musak; rap.

  3. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Climate models.

  4. Allen Wilson says:

    Social services; artificial “intelligence”; sanctions.

  5. Clyde Wilson says:

    Chewing gum

  6. Frank DeRienzo says:

    There were so many things prior to sliced bread that set the stage for these aberrations. One of my old acquaintances liked to blame Descartes for everything thereafter. Another went back to Ockham. My post 1912 additions to the lists here are fluoride, canola oil, electric cars, wind power in it current uses, ethanol in gasoline burning the food supply while destroying carburetors, most pharma products including so-called cancer treatments and all the expensive lies on the allopathic theme, NASA and fake moon landings, Space Station submarines, The Space Force, Homeland Security, the 911 narrative and its ensuing failed imperialism, WWI and WWII historical narratives and Cold War narratives.

  7. William Shofner says:

    The Deep State; in sum, every Federal agency not created by the U.S. Constitution.

  8. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    My friend Becky adds imitation maple syrup, which might stand for all the artificial flavors. Near the top of the list I’d put margarine, which is supersaturated cottonseed and soybean oil. Lard tastes better and is more healthful. On a higher note, one might throw in any automobile stereo or portable radio or sound device that can be heard more than two or three feet away, and–abomination of abominations–recorded music and tvs in bars and restaurants. The only reason for such diabolical noise machines is the vast majority of Americans who would not communicate with their fellows even if they knew how to.

  9. Raymond Olson says:

    Daylight savings time. Computer-generated imagery. Commercial broadcasting. The dish-“washing” machine. Texting. MAGA.

  10. Raymond Olson says:

    Just came to me–” spinoff” merchandise.

  11. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Hollywood movies, commercial music, mashed potato buds, packaged spice mixtures and barbecue sauces. Politically, I dream of a wold without rights based on race, sex, gender, religion, or history of indolence and crime. Ditto to MAGA and Double Ditto to Anti-MAGA. I don’t know when they started but throw in the YMCA, ACLU, Labor Day–and all the Federally mandated celebrations of persecuted minorities, hatless women in church, ladies who pretend to be Christian ministers, and blue jeans worn by men who do not work with their hands to earn their Wonder bread sandwiches with bologna salad.

  12. Vince Cornell says:

    24 hour news channels.
    Hallmark Cards.
    Professional Sports.

  13. Russell Gordon-Pametnjakovic' says:

    The “modern” Democratic and Republican parties.

  14. andrei navrozov says:

    This post should be a permanent feature, with people adding abominations as they think of them.

    Incidentally, in Italy it is no longer possible to buy filterless cigarettes of any brand, domestic or imported. LSMFT the original, unfiltered, is not to be had, nor is the great British cavallo di battaglia, Senior Service, nor even the French Gauloises and Gitanes. Which is why I smoke Tuscan cigars.

  15. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Next time I want to come down with six weeks of pneumonia, I’ll return to Sicily with packs of Camel Straights and Gitanes, both excellent smokes. I might as well add to the list: American pizza chains, canned sugo (e.g. Prego), and cheese in a can flavored with sawdust. Oh yes, shirts and ties with the maker’s brand name in plain view, automobiles with names as nonsensical as the names of NFL players–you know, Camry, Elante, Kia Cerato.

  16. Raymond Olson says:

    Alas! Mr. Navrozov, my beloved Luckies aren’t available in Minnesota these days. And where are unfiltered Chesterfield Kings? I don’t think I’ve even seen a pack of Pall Malls of late. Along with Camel straights, a loose-packed cigarette if ever there was one, those were my preferences during my ten years as a smoker. I still dream about finding a pack of Luckies–so round, so firm, so fully packed!

  17. Vince Cornell says:

    I should say that, if my kids were to smoke cigarettes, they would probably be Lucky Strikes. We’ve listened to so many Jack Benny radio shows that everyone, down to the 5 year olds, can sing the Lucky Strikes theme song. “Smooooke a Lucky, to feel your level best!”

  18. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I’d tell my kids not to smoke a cigarette until they reach 25 and then feel free to smoke a pack a month, if they so desire. Me, I don’t desire, but even mentioning Luckies gives me a warm glow. LSMFT. Let that be a code word, as it was for Mr Smith.

  19. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Cigarettes are the worst. Wish I had stuck to Balkan sobranie in my calabash. Life would be more enjoyable. If I make it to 80 I am going to smoke my calabash (and other meerschaum) pipes again (if I can get acceptable tobacco). Unfortunately tobacco smells better if you do not smoke it. Is that a warning from God?

  20. Dom says:

    Mr. Van Sant,
    I agree about cigarettes. They seem like the potato chips of tobacco as opposed to cigars or pipes which one must sit down and enjoy. However, being fairly immoderate in my own ways, I can’t and don’t condemn them.

    Yellow-lettered, glass front “Tobacco” shops are a different matter. They are not tobacco shops at all, but outlets for vape, “kratom” (I still have no clue), CBD, and crack pipes. More like “Junkies Welcome”. They prophesy doom like title loan and strip joints and they have been popping up in my area like mushrooms. I hate them.

  21. Gregory Fogg says:

    Camels were my brand, but I also liked Luckies, Pall Malls and Chesterfields (king and regular). Also good, but much harder to find, were Gitanes, Old Gold, Phillip Morris and Herbert Tareyton. Kool also had a non-filter version but I never cared for menthol cigarettes (which also should be added to the list, along with self-service gasoline).

  22. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Dom – there was a tobacco shop on Maryland Ave where I bought my pipes and tobacco when I was a Midshipman. It was the real deal. The owner shut it down when he saw where things were going.

  23. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I occasionally smoke one of my pipes–most of which are presents from my wife in travels to England and Greece. I used to get, on the advice of Aaron Wolfe, Frogmorton and its other labels like Frog Across the Pond, but they went out of business. I now have some MacBaren, which is acceptable but no so good. If anyone used to like Frogmorton and has found a good replacement, I shall be all ears.

  24. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    PS I buy tobacco from JR in Burlington, NC through the mail, as I do cigars. For those high-strung smokers who bite and chew stems or just have old pipes that need refurbishing, a Vietnam Vet friend of mine, Steve Berg (whom some of you have met) put me onto a man in SE Wisconsin. He did an excellent job on 4 good pipes.

  25. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    High on the list should be the universal habit of first-naming strangers. This is particularly offensive when the person calling you Sam or Jim is a bank teller of clerical worker in a hospital. Once or twice I have retaliated in a doctors office. Secretary, “Hi Tom, Dr. Johnson will be with you shortly.” “How’s Jim doin these days?” “You mean DOCTOR Johnson.” “If he is DOCTOR, then I am doctor or Mr Fleming, it makes no difference to me, but if I am Tom, then he is Jim.” Of course I made an enemy for life, someone bound to screw up everything she could.

  26. Dom says:

    Mr. Van Sant,
    I recall a cigar chop on Main Street. Maybe a block downhill from Chick and Ruth’s. There was a haberdasher or something next door. They seemed like a respectable outfit, but that was a while ago. I hate to think it is all Yellow-Letter Junkymarts now.

    Dr. Fleming,
    I wish I could recommend a tobacco. I get mine from a local cigar shop that measures it out loose. I started with the loose stuff several years ago, because even one ounce lasts me a while. There is a Virginia and an English-Oriental blend of theirs I like and so I have stuck with it. Canned tobacco stays longer, so they say, but the loose stuff works for me.
    Incidentally, I was there this afternoon to pick up some cigars and some Virginia blend. The fellow on duty wasn’t real clear about their supplier. I did notice a can of Mac Buren and so I grabbed it – all 3.5 oz. That will last quite a while and is probably better than what I am used to. Guess I will have to start treating myself better and smoke more.

  27. John Howell says:

    Textbooks, eBooks, No- Fear Shakespeare, The Wall of Sound, flavored coffee, overhopped ale, Booze Pops, and the Senior Executive Service.

  28. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Dom – I do not remember a tobacco shop on Main Street. Chick and Ruth’s is still there. My wife and I go there on occasion. You have to park in a city garage and walk there. My COPD makes it difficult for me. They have very good food. Their donuts are excellent. Hot dogs and sandwiches too. They have a milkshake challenge too. Have to stand to drink it. Most of the sandwiches are named after local politicians. They have pictures of celebrities on the walls.

  29. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    The Balkan Sobraine I mentioned is a Latikia blend. Latikia is a fermented tobacco with a distinctive aroma. My roommate who was a California surfer turned me on to it. Years ago I did a search for it and discovered that it was no longer imported. I may go looking for it again but my wife will not like that if I find it.

  30. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Oops. Failing memory. It is perique tobacco in Balkan blends that is fermented. A quick search on internet indicates this tobacco may be hard to get. If you search on Amazon all you get is nicotine free tobacco. Like decaf coffee. Who needs that?

  31. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    John Howell, AMEN to all especially textbooks. They were the first step toward the infantilization of education, then came workbooks, film strips, powerpoint presentations. Has anyone mentioned instant coffee? Or long-haired men and short-haired women? (Henry Adams described Boston as the land of those two freaks.) If we can include human specimens, I’d start my list with Aaron Copeland, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Spielberg, George Lucas, Walt Disney, and Robert McNamara–all of whom qualified as candidates for postpartum abortion.

  32. Brent says:

    Styrofoam cups, paper straws, video conferences, and artificial flowers.

  33. Cody Nicholson says:

    Billboards, overuse and misuse of the term “as well”.

  34. Michael Strenk says:

    Homogenized, ultra-pasteurized skim mild with added vitamins A and D. We take ours full fat and unpasteurized. Pasteurization, a fraudulent practice invented by a fraud, was a perfect vehicle for the consolidation of the milk market under the control of and for the sole profit of the processors, likewise homogenization. People only ever started getting sick from drinking milk when they began to produce it within the boundaries of filthy modern cities from cattle fed on spent brewer’s mash and poison water. The milk was then cut with the same poison river water to increase profits. We don’t typically drink much fluid milk but make and eat a ton of yogurt of various types and cultures. The cream top is the best part.

    Dr. Fleming, in his brave interaction with his doctor’s staff, totally disregarding all self interest, reminds me of the Jewish waiters of NYC long past. Sometimes it is irresistible to make the point but consequences, like losing your tip or your records, often follow.

    I’ll keep my long hair until our monks and priests start cutting theirs off (not likely). You men of the West can finger wag all you want. I am more practical about the beard. Living without air-conditioning in the Mid-Atlantic can drive one mad in the summer with that wool laying on the neck and chest, but I only shave once a week giving me a sorry excuse for a beard most of the time for about three months.

  35. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Clergy have special duties and special ways of dressing and grooming. Priests and monks wear dresses, but that is not a cover for Dylan Mulvaney. St Paul takes a dim view of long-haired men, and that is enough for me: Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? Now, I am not talking about guys with a big bushy head of hair or grow it fairly down the neck. I think anything above the shoulder makes sense for an Orthodox or Catholic layman.

  36. Michael Strenk says:

    St. Paul like St. Peter was not perfect except in his martyrdom, more perfect, however, they I am ever likely to be. I talked about this with a monastic Orthodox deacon who was quite clear that Paul was wrong on this very minor point. Orthodox believers, not only the clergy, are called to accept with grace, and even court, dishonor, without actually doing anything dishonorable. It is a check to pride. If a man wears his hair as an ornament, long or short, then there is an obvious problem.

  37. Dot says:

    Mr. Strenk, my grandfather’s cousin had cows and I had a taste of unpasteurized milk. It was HORRID!

  38. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Milk straight from the cow is indeed a beautiful thing. As a boy I spent time on a Swedish dairy farm owned by my father’s favorite deer-hunting partner. Their oldest boy would tell me to open my mouth and then squirt the warm milk into it.

  39. Dot says:

    Dr. Fleming, I want my milk to come from the dairy section at the supermarket 🙂

  40. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Most milk in the supermarket is just OK but far from good. In Wisconsin the milk is more flavorful and richer, and I assume they still have regulations. In the SC Low Country there used to be Gippy Plantation whose milk came from Jersey cows, unhomogenized. Delicious. Holstein cows are big producers but the milk is paltry. There is absolutely no need for homogenization or pasteurization, and draining the butterfat out is criminal. Babies on lowfat and no-fat milk get fat because they never feel full.

  41. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I should admit that I drink milk from the supermarket because I am not fanatical enough to look for a bootlegging dairy farmer.

  42. Michael Strenk says:

    Unpasteurized milk is legally available in most states now. Here is list of providers in Illinois:

    Landscapers, their demonic machinery and all of their works. Vehicles manufactured to be reasonably quite but subsequently modified by sociopaths to make as much noise as possible.

  43. Michael Strenk says:

    In our area we can get real milk delivered to our door, no fanatical commitment required.

  44. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Count your blessings! Illinois loves to regulate. The best commercial dairy is Oberweiss with returnable bottles. It is pasteurized and homogenized but it tastes better. The entrepreneur sought the GOP nomination for governor some years back. He should have got it, but he held unacceptable attitudes on open borders and free trade and he was not a moral degenerate. I once was seated next to him at a Legatus dinner at which I was speaking.

  45. Michael Strenk says:

    Dot, the taste of the milk is very much dependent on what the livestock are eating. In a pasture-based system the plants available change with the seasons. Many people are put off by early spring milk because it tends to take on a flavor of onions from the wild garlic that proliferates in early spring. Cheese-makers have taken advantage of these seasonal differences for centuries to create specific cheeses with distinctive flavors.

    Some farmers are breeding Holsteins back to their original, much smaller framed form for pastured feeding. I understand that the milk from these cows is much closer to that of Jerseys and Guernseys. Massive-framed modern Holsteins produce huge amounts of milk on an all grain diet but not for very long. They burn out young and have to be destroyed. How this is profitable for any but the Wall Street gamblers who benefit from “farm” subsidies, I’ll never know. The regulations are put in place to serve the wealth of the politicians’ sponsors in this racket.

  46. Harry Colin says:

    As a lactose intolerant fellow milk is not something that I consume, but a few years ago I did some consulting for a church in upstate NY and many of the families that I came to know were dairy farmers or had ben. Their stories match exactly with Mr. Strenk’s comments above. They said, unanimously, that between the feds and the state they were unable to exist solely as milk concerns; they had to expand into other things or, sadly, sell to some evil conglomerate. (Pardon the redundancy).

  47. Dot says:

    Worst thing since sliced bread. Ear buds

  48. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    The nearest farm selling untreated milk is 90 minutes away. If I felt strongly about it, I’d rather just give up milk. As GKC once quipped, “I’d love to lead the simple life, but I just cannot afford it.” Having already outlived most of my closest relatives and ancestors, I’m not terribly worried about the health effects of processed food. Early in our marriage, my wife and I lived in a rural village. We had a very big garden, raised chickens, and I made beer, some of which I traded for shrimp or pork. Once I got down seriously to writing, there was little time for hobbies, though my wife still does a lot of gardening, both ornamentals and edibles. We have a particularly good herb garden. Before anyone points an accusing finger, let me assure you I do my bit by paying large sums of money to the nice Mexican who cuts the lawn, trims the massive hedges, and cleans up the yard.

  49. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Since some have brought up politics and manners, I think it not out of place to include all diets and food fads and not just the Satan-inspired Vegan diet. I warned Aaron Wolfe about the paleo diet, and most of the others are just as bad. Throw in fluorescent lighting and neon signs, dangerous and pointless pastimes like sky diving, rock climbing, mountain defacing climbs, megachurches, and all sheep-stealing denominations that claim to be non-denominational. Don’t forget mass tours by bus or boat. Polyester. Velcro. The entire decade of the 1970s.

  50. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    PS Maybe Michael S knows why the commercial milk in Wisconsin is better than most states.

  51. Michael Strenk says:

    Mr. Colin, I used to think that I was lactose intolerant, I was even taking Lactaid occasionally when I ate “cheese”. Since switching to raw milk, unpasteurized yogurt (the milk for yogurt, with thermophilic cultures, needs to be heated but not to pasteurization levels) and cheeses I have absolutely no trouble digesting milk products. Apparently pasteurization destroys the probiotic cultures naturally present in milk and the nascent enzymes that help the human (and calf) body digest it. We buy directly from the farmer so that he gets all of the profit from the sale.

    Dr. Fleming, unfortunately, wages in construction and anything else in which I might “make a living” are so low that homesteading is the only lifestyle that I can afford. My wife’s business has to make up for all of the incidentals of modern life, the most insidious of which, we find, is property taxes. We have found that with food production, fuel sourcing and processing (firewood), fixing things we use to have to pay to have fixed, not having commuting and other work related expenses etc., I am making, by saving, no less than I was working. This is a sad fact but true.

    I am on a very nearly paleo diet. I have to be to control the symptoms associated with migraine, which I never experience any more. We switched to this way of eating to save my wife’s life and it worked, fairly quickly, like a charm with her being in much better health in her late 50’s than she was in her early 40’s. My improvement seemed incidental until this book: explained to me the mechanism of why a no sugar, low carb, high salt diet helped me. I can’t know why it didn’t work for our friend Aaron (I didn’t know he had tried this). I can only guess that it was too little to late or the wrong approach for his ailments or at the wrong time. Maybe other things needed to be addressed first.

    As to the superiority (pun fully intended) of Wisconsin milk, I can only take your word for it, but my guess would be the vicissitudes of shipping the product over long distances with the inevitable agitation, temperature changes etc. In WI the milk, no doubt, gets to the shelf quicker and more directly.

  52. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Everyone, not as individual but as heir to various lines of descent, has different requirements in diet. Much depends, also, on age. I don’t eat half the red meat I used to, and I find myself cutting back on potatoes and bread, though I am certainly not gluten-intolerant. Our bodies, unless we choose to be deaf to them, like to tell us what we need and do not need. That is a far cry from reading in article in the dentist’s office and accepting the latest fad. Some of the fads are based on principles that are simply false. Paleolithic man would have eaten a great deal like our close cousins the chimps. Lots of nuts and seed, fruit, when we could find it, bugs, and meat–necessary for a species making great strides in neural development–whenever we could get it. On the other hand, what evidence we have suggests this bigger brained apes did not live very long. We do know something about the lives of Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Phoenicians (and their double first cousins the ancient Jews), and, as much as they liked their meat, they lived more on grain, vegetables, and fish. Our short-lived arterio-sclerotic barbarian ancestors were the meat-eaters, and they were backward in the arts of civilization. Julius Caesar praises the hardiness of his soldiers who, when they ran out of the grains from which which they made their disgusting porridge, actually subsisted on meat! In sum, my own view is eat what makes you happy, but take some time to consider what that happiness is.

  53. Michael Strenk says:

    From my reading meat eating is far from the cause of arterio-sclerosis. At the heart of every heart blockage is a hard, brittle accretion like that which builds up on the teeth. The body lays down cholesterol, a vital healing compound that the body produces in large quantities, over this accretion to keep it from slashing the other side of the artery as it pulses. Heart disease, while not completely unknown historically, is largely a modern phenomenon due to access to large quantities of cheap sugar, modern vegetable oils which are generally rancid before they leave the field and are full of inflaming omega-6 fatty acids, and modern grains, which are not the grains that ancient peoples lived on. These grains are harder to digest and are rarely prepared properly by fermentaion, as in the Roman soldiers disgusting porridge. Who could blame them for eating as much meat as they could get their hands on. Learning about all of this has made me happy as my energy levels and productivity are much higher now, in my mid-50’s than they were when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. There is a degree of happiness in not feeling ill all day every day and knowing why. Our ancestors had these things mostly figured out but didn’t know the whys of it all. We lost the traditions that kept people well so now we have to know why if we want to maintain a healthy and fertile society.

  54. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I’d be a bit more careful about what I read. When only the fittest people live beyond 60 or so, heart disease is not so much of a problem, especially when both the leisured classes and the working classes are getting a tremendous amount of exercise. Modern wheat has much higher levels of gluten than wheat of even the 19th century, but the sort of people you seem to be reading have what I think of as the hula hoop theory of history. Everything was fine until the hula hoop craze and then came sex, drugs, rock and roll, and look where we are now! Actually, as I observed,Greeks and Romans–much healthier than Celts and Germans–at low meat diets. Usually, when people start looking out for their health, they undertake a number of reforms: quit smoking, drink less alcohol, work out regularly, change their diet. It is not easy for non-physicians as we are to determine the more important causes. The nutjob Tom Brady did pretty well on very little meat, but who knows what kind of metabolism he was blessed with. I do what I can not to harm myself, eat sparingly, do some exercise though with recent injuries that is difficult, but the mean reason to have a corpus sanum is that it is easier to maintain a mens sana. If I had to start thinking about the whys and wherefores of what I eat, I think I’d rather just pass on quietly into whatever reward or punishment awaits me.

  55. Dot says:

    Mr. Strenk
    Life offers surprises no matter what you do. I did all the supposedly right things but had to have a pacemaker implanted below the collar bone with 2 leads to the heart. Initially, I had had a Holter monitor test done that showed some irregularities.
    The cardiologist, now a cardio electrophysiologist did the procedure on July 25. Currently, I can’t raise my left arm above my head.
    I used to walk up and down my hilly neighborhood and don’t have the strength to do that, so I just walk about 15 minutes on my street. I think that by the end of September I will have more liberties. I want to feel whole again, but I must be patient. I’m not looking for sympathy. It’s part of life and you have to deal with it.

  56. Michael Strenk says:

    So what are we to think about all that barbecuing on the beach in the Odyssey with hecatombs of livestock being sacrificed and consumed? Were they running about stealing cattle and sheep to liberate them or use them for fish bait? Granted, stealing and eating the sun god’s pet livestock (must have been an ancestor of Ted Turner) had some definite negative health consequences.
    I’ll stick with what I’ve been reading on the subject as it has worked very well for us and many friends.

    Dot, I am very sorry for your trouble. We lit a candle for your health in church recently. We hope that you will soon be taking the hills like a 20-year-old again.

  57. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Michael S raises good point about Homer. In reading Homer as a witness to Greek customs, one has to bear in mind several things. First, he is conjuring up a world of late Bronze Age Greece some three to four centuries after its collapse. Since Greeks had given up even their primitive Linear B script, used mostly for record keeping, they had to rely on an oral tradition of storytelling and poetry. By the time of the Odyssey, mainland Greece and Western Greece in particular was known very sketchily, and Homer’s geography is hard to figure out. For him Phaeacia is a land of wonders and may reflect some dim memory of life in the palaces on Crete. Second, neither the Greek host at Troy nor Odysseus and his men are leading normal lives: The Greeks at Troy are far from home and live off what they can pillage, while Odysseus’ crew are more or less pirates. None of them can plant a crop of wheat or barley, though the story of Odysseus feigning madness by plowing the seashore indicates he was not unused to planting crops. Third, the eating scenes in Homer are almost all feasts of one kind or another, and feasts were associated with religious rites at which large numbers of animals were sacrificed. We see this also in the OT, where inevitably the eating scenes are connected with rituals. To this day, Greeks celebrate religious festivals, Easter in particular, by consuming large quantities of meat roasted over an open fire.

    The evidence for the ordinary Greek diet comes both from archaeological excavation of houses, middens, ovens, etc–going back to the period of their arrival in Greece, and from comic and satiric writers, Aristophanes especially. Even with less evidence, though, we would have to recognize that mainland Greece and most of the islands are rocky and thin-soiled, not suitable for raising much stock except goats. There were exceptions like the plains of Thessaly, where they bred horses, and Boeotia, but Homer understand this when Telemachus turns down the gift of horses on the grounds that Ithaca does not have enough grazing land. Pandarus in the Iliad also says he left his horses home, where there was sufficient food.

    Like all sane people and even chimps, Greeks ate rednmeat when they could get it, but fish, chicken, and pork were more available. Grain and various forms of pulse dominate their diet, as well as fish, small birds, etc. Roasted beef and sheep are associated largely with the great festivals. With their sensible diet, their insistence upon regular exercise and sports, their dislike of excessive luxury, fatness, alcoholism, they could lead healthy lives until fairly late. Sophocles was over 90 when he wrote his most profound play, the Oedipus at Colonus, one of the 30 or so tragedies to be preserved by schoolmasters out of the many hundreds written by celebrated playwrights. Sophocles’ older contemporary, the comic poet Cratinus, also lived into his 90s. In general, ancient Greeks and Romans lived longer healthier lives than the barbarians, and, according to the archeological historian Brian Ward Perkins, the fall of the Empire plunged Britain and Western Europe into not only lawlessness, violence, and illiteracy, but into filth, poverty, and a bad diet. In an exhibit at the City of London Museum I once visited, the curator concluded that the life span and healthiness of Londoners reached a peak under Roman rule, plunged dramatically with their departure, and did not reach Roman longevity until the 1950s, when the impact of antibiotics and superior health care kicked in. Ask any unfaddish doctor, and he will tell you to avoid fads, eat a balanced diet, and don’t go to extremes. Nothing in excess. Measure is best.

    Finally, to end this long-winded sermon, a man nearing the age of 80 cannot but long for the good health and vitality of young people in their 1950s. To paraphrase Herodotus’ Solon: I count no man healthy until I know the manner of his end. I’ve been physically lazy all my life–it disgusted my father. And even the things I used to do, like mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges, cleaning out the garage, I no longer do. My excuse is a bad knee and lately an ankle injury. The wise Hippocratic doctors warned against being too healthy, a condition that invited the retribution of serious disease. In many ways they were correct.

  58. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    At 76 with many health issues I find that I need to eat very little or I will gain weight. Of course I enjoy my cognac, bourbon, and other spirits after dinner.

  59. Dot says:

    My doctor told me he used to be a runner but no longer can do so. He must be only in his late fifties. I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet. I wished I had a picture of myself to show him when I climbed to the top of Acadia Mountain in Acadia National Park about 7 years ago – 680 feet. The most difficult part was hiking down. He told me I’d be back doing the things I like to do. I’m working on it. I’m an oldy but when I go to Maine with my son in October I look forward to a hike and to enjoy a lobster, steamed clams and a slice of Maine blueberry pie. The foliage at that time of year will be stunning.

  60. Michael Strenk says:

    If the Greeks were keeping herds milk must have been an important part of their diet as well. Paleo fanatics don’t like milk because, they say, cavemen weren’t consuming it. I’ll take milk over grubs, lizards and the left-overs from yesterdays lion kill any day. Not having to struggle as much with the weather must also have made a difference in the European south’s having the spare time to develop things like aqueducts and baths as well as alphabets and mathematics.

  61. John Howell says:

    The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

  62. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Dot -Happy to hear you are recovering from your procedure. My wife had to give up walking on her treadmill because of painful knees and hips. We got her a recumbent exercise bike. I gave up running a long time ago and ride an exercise bike for an hour every day. It is part of my therapy for my COPD. I do not do well with change of pace. I have to get in a rhythm with my breathing. Keep walking for as long as you can. Enjoy your mobility. It is a treasure.

  63. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Dr. Fleming – you really hit a nerve here. Keep the comments coming.

    The interstate highway system has turned us into a nation of nomads.