T he sandwich market is really buoyant and heading for a 9% rise this year, according to research from Mintel (pg 4). Certainly, the choice on offer from bakeries, coffee shops and supermarkets is phenomenal. The variety of breads, flavours of filling and healthy-eating options are all terrific. But there are two more comments about sandwiches in this week’s issue that also made me think.

One is in our Consumer Watch column on page 6, where Laura Clark says she doesn’t go into bakeries often, as she doesn’t associate them with health. Instead, she prefers Boots or Marks & Spencer. That is an image that definitely needs countering! All bakery shops should offer ’healthy’ options and publicise them! It seems the message is not getting through to all shoppers.

The second is the comment by Pret A Manger’s commercial director Simon Hargreaves, who tells us that he is expecting to sell around 70,000 Christmas Lunch special sandwiches over eight weeks at 170 outlets. The ’special’ comprises turkey breast, a pork and herb stuffing, fresh leaf spinach, crispy onions and mayo on malted wholegrain. It’s a simple but imaginative mix. Are you promoting something similar at a premium price - perhaps with a Christmas muffin or mince pie in the deal?

Yet the respect and camaraderie that bread engenders really came home to me over the last two weeks. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Israel and Palestine, along with the Bishop of Croydon and a group of 25 people from around the UK. As well as visiting many places mentioned in the Bible, we had arranged to meet with local Jews, Muslims and Arab Christians to talk about the history and politics of the region - from the recent building of the wall, which trespasses on Pales- tinian land, to high feelings over nationality and security.

But what bound us together, whenever we met, was bread. We opened discussions over bread, we passed round baskets of unleavened breads, we shared bread. It broke the ice, it gave us energy - no talk about low carbs here! - and it sustained our conversation. We ate it with hummus and olives, but the basic act of sharing the staff of life made us more polite and tolerant. Perhaps the politicians in both lands should try it more often.