11 Jul 2002 // places

Europeans take their bread seriously. Very seriously. In the supermarket, bread takes up a large section of the supermarket. This is because the peoples expect fresh bread, even in a supermarket. Always, there is a wall that has been converted into the bread display case, clear plastic drawers where you can see the (uncut) loaves. Examine it. Discern it. Critique it. And choose it. There is a bewildering variety of choice. Recipes from different regions, white, grey, wholemeal, bioorganic.

But the next step is the best bit. You take your loaf out of the basket and place it into...A BREAD CUTTING MACHINE. Open the lid, dump the loaf and press the big green button. The machine chuggs into action and your previously virginal uncut loaf now pops out as a sliced up proto-sandwich bread.

But perhaps where the bread fetish is taken to extremes is in your average sandwich diner. In any sandwich diner worth it's salt, there is a large, semi-industrial sized oven where ... all bread rolls, pastries, croissants are baked on-site. As you order your sandwich, you will be safe in the knowledge that the bread you eat just came out of the oven.