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LORAN SMITH: Saltine crackers go with everything

Loran Smith

Loran Smith

With the colder temperatures of late, it has been a good time for hot soup. Soup in the winter months must be accompanied by saltine crackers, which happen to be good during any time of the year, in any setting, on any occasion.

Saltines go with everything. They just taste good by themselves, but when you smear something like peanut butter on them, you have a treat that is about as tasty as there is. A nice piece of cheese and a saltine cracker makes you feel uncertain — you don’t know which tastes better, the cheese or the cracker.

There are so many uses of saltines that if I put them all on paper, it could fill a book. Crackers, of all sorts, have always been a good snack. What is tastier than a pack of square cheese crackers? I must confess, I am aware that — with all the saturated fat in a pack of such crackers — there is not much which could be worse for you. This is not about what is best for your health, however, but what tastes good.

I have a friend in Atlanta who keeps a big jar of Ritz crackers in her kitchen. Every time we go to see her, I find myself reaching for a handful. And another. And another. I never see her or her husband reaching into the jar for a Ritz cracker, but by the time I leave after a brief stay, the jar is near empty. Not sure if you have noticed, but Ritz crackers are quite fulfilling when paired with red wine.

Interestingly, we have never gotten around to buying a nice oversized jar and filling it with Ritz crackers. We never buy them, but when we visit our friends in Atlanta, my first stop is always the kitchen and the Ritz cracker jar. I’ve always wondered why the Ritz doesn’t place a jar of Ritz crackers on their check-in desk. You could reach for a handful of crackers while you are being processed for lodging. Ritz crackers on the counter would have to be good for business. If you are stressed about anything, or if anything is wrong with your reservation, you would be able to handle the situation while enjoying a Ritz cracker. Snacking on a Ritz or a saltine cracker calms your nerves and helps you to relax.

Growing up, as I recall, the primary use of saltine crackers was for oyster soup. I remember, too, that saltines were good for nausea and upset stomach. I also remember that pregnant women ate saltines. Since I have never been pregnant, I am not sure why saltines were good for pregnancy. When we had communion at the country church, we used Welch’s grape juice and saltine crackers. And we were appalled with what we heard about the Catholics in Baltimore, our source being a member of our community who settled there after military duty, marrying a Catholic girl.

Somebody heard that at communion, they used real wine. Many in the community thought that the world would come to an end over such. One of the members of the church who spoke out against such conduct — folks in Baltimore using real wine at communion — was an active bootlegger. I haven’t thought about that lately, but there is no doubt that saltine crackers would go well with moonshine. However, I wouldn’t suggest to a Frenchman that you consider pairing saltines with a bottle of Bordeaux.

Saltines originated in St. Joseph, Mo., in 1876 by F.L. Sommer and Co., which became the American Biscuit Co. which eventually merged with Nabisco. According to the Internet, saltines are made in the United Kingdom, in New Zealand, and in Australia.

Made of flour, water, and salt, the tasty crackers have often been referred to as “soda” crackers. They are great when you need a snack or when you are serving chili, stews, soups, or dips.

By any name, saltines give you a lift — and I daresay can do more to elevate your emotions than aspirin—but not Jack Daniels.