What's so great about sliced bread?
Life in the Balkans certainly has its deficits, but going out in the morning to the corner bakery to pick up a loaf of bread still warm from the wood-fired oven is not one of them. Having to slice it myself is a small price to pay.
In our early days in Albania there were sometimes bread shortages and consequently long lines at the bakery. Let me rephrase that; there were never really lines in the strictest sense of the word. More like a rugby scrum. Then there was the time I chipped a tooth on a rock in a loaf of bread. Someone later explained to me that the rocks get in there when they sweep the flour off the floor. But none of these traumatic experiences -- having to fight for my food and having to go to the dentist -- were enough to put me off Balkan bread.
I got to talking about bread the other day with a friend from this part of the world who spent a little time in the States. Overall I think that he was pretty overwhelmed with a lot of his experiences, but our American bread made a lasting impression on him. "I put in the fridge and forgot about it," he said. "A month later, it was exactly the same! It hadn't changed even the tiniest bit -- for good or for bad!"
I realize that the old saying, "the greatest thing since sliced bread" is probably a weak target since most people use it with a certain amount of irony. Speaking of old sayings, remember the line from the Lord's prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread"? Here in this part of the world, that still makes sense.