Having been fortunate to travel several times in England as a young man, I remember being quite pleased with the custom of high tea. It reminded me of younger days when my family would “beagle” on Sundays after church.
Beagling is a civilized sport, alternating between quiet moments walking through the woods listening to dogs working the leaves to wilder episodes running behind a pack of hounds on the trail of a wild rabbit. The sound of the master’s horn and the words “Pack together!” along with the barking of a happy pack of beagles before a chilly hunt is a memory etched in my mind. After several hours of walking- and sometimes running- through the woods, the “field” would retire to a prepared English tea.
Where to start? Some sources maintain that people have been eating cooked grains for 30,000 years. But it wasn’t until the Neolithic period, 10,000 years ago, that grains were first cultivated in areas near the Nile Valley. The shift from being hunting and gathering nomads to farming societies was a significant turning point in human history. That change spread out from the Fertile Crescent to North Africa and Europe, and resulted in the development of towns and more complex social relationships.
As towns grew into cities, baking bread became a commercial activity. Free standing stone or brick ovens with doors seem to be a Greek idea. Bakeries flourished in Athens 2500 years ago and Greek bakers were making and selling bread in Rome three centuries later.
During the Middle Ages, bread was used as a plate. A square piece of bread, called a trencher, served to hold other foods and soak up the juices of the stews that were common fare. After the meal, one could eat one’s trencher, but because it was very course and dense and purposefully stale, it was more often given to the poor, or fed to dogs.
As we’ve noted elsewhere, The Nicer Slicer is the evolution of an earlier kitchen tool. The original Slice-a-Slice was manufactured during the 1940's and 1950's in Duncannon, Pennsylvania by the Ace Manufacturing Company.
The fact that some families continue to use their antique slicers 60 years later is a testament to its usefulness. As times and tastes changed, many Slice-a-Slice tools were relegated to Grandma’s attic, and later to garage sales. As its popularity faded, so did the knowledge of how to effectively use the Slice-a-Slice. Blogs of old kitchen utensil collectors are full of questions and photos asking if anyone knows what its purpose was. An amusing video of the pros and cons of using the Slice-a-Slice can be viewed here.