SMITH COLUMN: Reason my favorite snack is Saltine crackers

Published 10:00 am Thursday, May 19, 2022

There is a statistic for everything under the sun which makes one wonder if there are any stats that confirm which months of the year people put on the most weight.

In the summer, when the days are longer, perhaps there is more time to reach for a snack? A good snack, depending on what you choose, can be good for the spirits. Refresh your attitude. Saltine cracker snacks are good to usher you into a nice meal. While I am sure a waiter in Paris would blanch at such a notion, I know more blue collar folk than I do Frenchmen.  For the record, I enjoy hors d’oeuvre by the Seine as well as a saltine on the Altamaha.

\When it is snack time and there is hunger about, a good snack is as enjoyable as dinner at a five-star hotel. Not so fast, I should interrupt.  A prolonged dinner at the Ritz with all the trimmings would put the greatest of snacks to shame.  Especially if you are a guest or on expenses account.  Glad I came to my senses.

There are times, however when a snack is the only option. Like when you are in a boat on an intercostal river and the trout and bass are active. Or when taking a break in early November in a pheasant field in South Dakota.  Or when you come in from mowing the grass in summer.

Those times, and others, are when saltine crackers make your day.  Saltines are great with peanut butter. They are great when used to garnish your vegetable soup. Saltines are great with jelly, mayonnaise, ketchup and salad dressing. 

If you have ever been acquainted with a friend who had a good chicken mull recipe, you could not enjoy the best made mull without a fistful of saltine crackers.   

Years ago, I was invited to lunch at the Cherokee Club in Atlanta one winter day. As soon as water was poured, the friendly waiter sat down a generous basket of saltines which had been soaked in butter and warmed to palatable perfection.

If I had to rank the snacks I have enjoyed over the years, it would be difficult not to give the top spot to those butter drenched saltines. Eating your fill of buttered saltines, means that you don’t need more than a leafy salad for your entrée.

Perhaps you enjoy Brunswick stew. Most Brunswick stew aficionados enjoy white bread, but I prefer saltine crackers — blue ribbon perfection without any disclaimers.

If you savor raw oysters — what would be your reaction if you showed up at the Acme Oyster House in New Orleans and discovered the establishment was slap out of saltines?  I’m sure you would find your way to the nearest Felix’s — Acme’s competitor.

Saltines date back to the early 1800s. In the beginning, they were often referred to as “soda” crackers. Premium was the company which made saltines and soon was taken over by Nabisco which still uses the recipe when your great, great, granddaddy walked to school barefoot.

If your stomach is acting up, saltine crackers will settle your stomach.  Fortunately, I have not had an upset stomach lately, but when that happens, it is saltines to the rescue. Several years ago, I called Nabisco for information and history on the saltine cracker. At the time, I learned that more than 35 billion Premium Crackers are baked every year by Nabisco. Can’t recall the year of my inquiry, but I would venture that the figure is much higher today.

My old notes reflect this by product of my research: “Premium Crackers have achieved fame because, in addition to their delectability, they have that unique texture whose crispness is achieved when sheets of dough pass under special ‘docker’ pins which punch tiny holes in each cracker, permitting cooking steam to escape, keeping then flat and crisp. 

Crackers by the thousands roll out of huge ovens in sheets whose precise perforations define the final squares.”

Those squares have always made my day.