A Six Dollar Loaf of Bread

Staples are needs. The fact that America is a nation in which staples are priced as wants is a problem. In means that there are those that are starving while others profiteer. It is an unfair and unjust system of governance.

About twenty years ago I went on a mountain bike trip with my ex-wife and good friend Steve. That weekend I came to learn about one of the failures of my education. Simply, it boils down to this. Most problems can be solved if you are willing to learn something new.

At the time I had worked at a mountaineering shop similar to REI and we had an agreement with a bike shop down the street for a deal on tunes. We planned to depart for our trip Friday afternoon so I dropped off my bike on Thursday. 

Friday afternoon arrived and we packed up and headed to the mountains. We set up camp and headed out for a short mountain bike ride. My bike was not shifting well and I got really angry and stressed out. I had put a lot of my peace of mind and stress relief on the idea that the weekend would be great and there I was, an hour in, angry and out of sorts.

After my tantrum towards my bike and the offending bike shop, Steve gave me a life lesson. He simply stated, “If you are going to get this out of sorts for such a simple problem, learn to fix it yourself.”

He was right and that is exactly what I did. After arriving home, I bought a bike mechanic book, a stand and some tools and have only had myself to blame when my bike is not working correctly and that is rare and usually no more than a five minute fix. Mind you, this is about 20 years later.

I no longer ask, rely or need a bike shop. I like them. In fact, I just bought a new bike that I could have bought online from a local shop because they earned my business as a business should. Businesses should not take customers for granted.

Which brings me to the title of this piece. A Six Dollar Loaf of Bread. I have been all over the world over the last 20 years and I have never seen a place that sells a six dollar loaf of bread. Three euros was about maximum for a specialty artisan loaf. Normal French bread was a euro ten. Turkey, for a fresh hot loaf out of the oven, was thirty cents.

You may be asking what does being a bike mechanic have to do with bread. It’s simple. I am not willing to pay six times the price for an inferior loaf of bread. Equal, sure. But six times goes against my own abilities to think, create and problem solve.

When I arrived back in the USA after over ten years abroad, I went grocery shopping. I had to. Food is a need. I don’t eat a lot of bread so it took a few trips for me to peruse the bakery aisle and on first inspection, all I could do was gasp, laugh out loud and mockingly mumble that some are willing to pay six dollars for a loaf of bread. 

The price tag caused my brain to shift gears on my desire for bread in America and the solution became abundantly clear. If I want to eat bread in the USA, I will need to learn how to bake my own and that is exactly what I did.

All over the world, bread is a staple from tortillas to pitas to baguettes and those who bake the bread are business owners. They own no secrets of trade or skill that a novice can’t quickly progress to mastery at. They are bread makers. A profession older than bike mechanic or tailor.

In the modern era, businesses are relying on our fear to learn new trades that will solve problems and save us money. Only 120 hundred years ago was the assembly line perfected. Its purpose was to mass produce products at a lesser cost.

Today, assembly lines are used to generate more profit, period. The products are not as well built or long lasting and in the case of bread, 6 times the cost of what the best bread costs in other localities in the world.

Power comes from one person’s ability to do something that the other cannot. My suggestion is to learn to do more so that you have more power. Bake bread. Hemm or sew clothes. Cut hair. Cook meals. Work on your bikes, cars or houses. None of these things are either rocket science or brain surgery. We all can at least achieve minimal proficiency so that we have the choice to pay not the need.

So the next time you are at the grocery store, buy some flour, salt, yeast and sugar. Cost: six dollars. Yield: Many loaves of fresh hot bread.

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