Once upon a time it was simple enough ordering your favorite soft drink.
You had your choice between Coke and Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and 7-Up. OK, maybe Royal Crown Cola and Nehi, too.
Then all that diet soda came along, followed by decaffeinated drinks and crazy flavors and Mountain Dew and now grocery stores need both sides of an entire aisle just to display all the varieties of pop.
Don't look now but a similar thing is happening in the bread aisle.
Where once you had a choice of wheat, white or rye, there's suddenly been an explosion of breads and buns to where you can spend 10 minutes standing in the aisle at Kroger trying to decide what to take home -- even without the added degree of difficulty brought on by the bread display moving every other day during construction.
Geez, and I thought discussing rye bread varieties with customers was going to push me over the edge some day when I was working in a Chicago area deli as a teenager.
The exchange always went something like this:
Them: I'd like a loaf of Rosen's rye bread, please.
Me: You want a large or small loaf?
Them: I'll take a large.
Me: With caraway seeds or without?
Them: (Almost always after a pregnant pause) Uh, without?
Me: You want that sliced or unsliced?
Them: Sliced would be nice.
Me: You want fries or an apple pie with that?
OK, so I made that last one up. But you get the picture. It was a simpler time yet we still played 20 questions on something as simple as buying a loaf of bread.
But now, there's no one to bounce the variables off of in the bread aisle. We must decide alone whether we want Bunny Bread (one of my faves for baloney sandwiches with Miracle Whip), Wonder Bread (Remember, it "helps build strong bodies 12 ways." Really?), Aunt Millie's Homestyle varieties, Giant Sunbeam (thought they made electric razors) or Hillbilly Bread, which I'm sure goes well with a cold Mountain Dew.
Of course, there's Kroger's own generic white and wheat and its Private Selection offerings that include a honey oat, multi-grain flax and even a loaf that tastes like those sweet King's Hawaiian rolls.
Also on the shelf are Nature's Own, Sara Lee (just learned recently that she's my next-door neighbor) and Pepperidge Farm, which offers an assortment of higher-priced loaves, including a dark wheat variety that almost tastes like chocolate cake at nearly $5 a pop.
The there's my new personal favorite, Cobblestone Just the Right Size 24 Whole Grain and Seeds, in a smaller loaf for the bachelors among us who abhor throwing out half a loaf of moldy bread and part of a carton of spoiled milk.
And all those bread companies even offer varieties like Italian, cracked wheat, pumpernickel and gluten-free.
Having this many choices, I don't think, is really the best thing since sliced bread.
In fact, the next time you find me staring transfixed at the bevy of breads, you'll know another weighty, wheaty decision has overwhelmed me ...
Unless, of course, they moved the darn bread aisle on me again.