No wonder

By Cody Ellerd^ah

It's time to revise your definition of the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich. On Dec. 16, the supply of Wonder Bread to Washington and Oregon will be cut off as Interstate Bakeries Corp., which has filed for bankruptcy protection, closes regional plants in nine states to cut costs.

Mercer Island Albertson's Store Manager John Gillespie said that in addition to losing a beloved bookend for any mayo-drenched meat product, his Jewish customers will be deprived of the only commercial kosher white bread he sells.

``Word is getting around now and some people are concerned,'' he said. At about 40 loaves per day, Wonder is his top-selling bread. The Albertson's bakery still makes its own kosher bread, and sells a Brenner's Bakery kosher rye that Gillespie says is ``good if you want a great pastrami.'' So there are alternatives.

``But just the fact that we all grew up with Wonder Bread as a name, and it's going away -- it's kind of weird,'' Gillespie said.

What are your favorite uses for Wonder Bread? E-mail

The name is everything

It's no coincidence that author Jeremy Mercer picked Mercer Island as his one Washington state stop on his nationwide tour of independent bookstores.

``I'm stopping there because my last name is Mercer,'' the former crime reporter from Canada said.

Mercer is touring to promote his acclaimed memoir, ``Time Was Soft There,'' an account of his days as a wandering bohemian residing at Shakespeare & Co., a legendary independent bookstore on Paris' arty Left Bank.

Plenty of Americans visiting Paris have stopped by the timeless bookstore and have gotten directions to the Eiffel Tower from one of the wine-soaked Anglophones lounging about in its courtyard; few of the visitors probably expected to see one of them standing clean-shaven behind a podium reading from his successful literary work.

Mercer promises more than a talking head, though. ``People could be doing lots of other things with their time -- so I try to create a more interactive, entertaining affair,'' he said.

Find out what he means at Island Books on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.

Office cheer

Holiday office parties are on the calendar and we're all looking forward to feasting on pigs in blankets and receiving the nice new paperweight we've been waiting for all year. For Islander Donna Buckingham, president of Wild Palms wholesale clothing boutique, the annual party is her chance to travel the world within the walls of her downtown Seattle office.

Out of some 20 people who usually attend the party, about 10 are from Vietnam, two are from Guatemala, one is Bosnian and another comes from India. Everyone brings food from their own country and gifts are exchanged.

``It is a real eclectic blend,'' said Buckingham. The staff favorite tends to be the Vietnamese home cooking, so her Vietnamese employees start bringing in their delicacies days ahead of time to appease their salivating coworkers.

The Washingtonians in their midst may still serve up some pigs in blankets, but it's a lesson in multiculturalism when the vegetarian Hindu employee from India politely declines.

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