"The greatest thing since sliced bread." This common expression that many of us use represents a milestone in convenience. In the late '20s and early '30s sliced and wrapped bread became widely available.

I'm not a cook, so it is difficult for me to imagine the mechanics of how that inventive someone devised the method to slice a loaf as thin crusted and weak-knead as Wonder Bread. Did it involve machetes? Table saws, piano wire, laser beams? Can you imagine two bakers and a candlestick maker trying to mash a wad of dough through a harp, or the grill of a '53 Buick, or a window at Alcatraz??

Unwrapping nature's goodies has always tested the ingenuity of man, be it coconuts, spuds or watermelons. But there are still several seemingly simple tasks that require considerably more effort than their benefit warrants: dentistry, peeling the shrink-wrap off of CDs, sharpening a paring knife or house-training a rabbit.

The Simplot Company, along with others, learned how to peel potatoes with lye and scrubbers. The Gallo Brothers no longer have bare-footed cloggers dancing in a vat of grapes. Citrus scientists gave the orange a navel which made hand peeling much easier. Freestone peaches, seedless grapes, spineless prickly pear, polled cattle and chicken nuggets are the result of deliberate genetic selection to improve the convenience of our food preparation. (Note:? this assumes that the nuggets are made from free-range boneless chickens)

But there are still some monumental obstacles to be conquered in our quest to make life easier. The pomegranate for instance: a delicious fruit that is as difficult to eat as Styrofoam peanuts. Watching someone eat a pomegranate is akin to watching a mother chimpanzee pick lice off her baby and pop them in her mouth.

Maybe the answer lies in breeding a pomegranate with the juicy seeds hanging on the outside. And a large stem that could act as a handle. It would be like eating a lumpy tapioca Popsicle.

How about eating crabs? If the purebred livestock people could be put in charge of the crab industry, in a short time we'd have 2-legged crustaceans with claws as big as a ham. The shell would come off as easily as a Hershey wrapper. All the rest of the crab, as well as old gummer crabs and corriente crabs would be ground into crab cakes. Think of it as efishant crabs. And maybe someday we'll breed a CD or DVD wrapper with a navel. Might be a job for the Orange County Choppers.

Baxter Black, author, cowboy poet and former large animal veterinarian, lives in Benson, Ariz.

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