152. Saltines (But Not Oyster Crackers)

Ah, saltines. Food of the Gods, when the Gods have the flu. Or feel like eating some soup. Bland? Sure. But salty? Absolutely. So salty. The pretzel ain’t got shit on our friend the saltine when it comes to the salt factor.

The lowly saltine

The lowly saltine

Now, I wasn’t allowed to have junk food growing up. Remember Combos? Those were a no-go. Bugles? No way, Jose. And don’t even start with me on Doritos. So, I ate a lot of saltines.

And thank God for that.

My parents must have foreseen my personal values and standards from an early age. After all, what do those junky snacks all have in common?

They’re not rectangles.

That’s right, folks. Not. Rectangles. So, fuck them, they have no place in this blog.

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s get back to the rectangular topic on hand – the saltine.

America's leading saltine brand. What an achievement!

America’s leading saltine brand. What an achievement!

According to our helpful pal Wikipedia, a saltine is “a thin, usually square cracker made from white flour, shortening, yeast, and baking soda…lightly sprinkled with coarse salt.”

The saltine was the first cracker to be leavened with baking soda. It was invented in 1876 by F.L. Sommer and Company, a company based out of Missouri. At first it was called the “Premium Soda Cracker,” due to that baking soda, and later became called “Saltines,” due to its use of baking salt. The saltine caught on brilliantly in America, and Sommer’s business eventually merged with other companies to become part of Nabisco in 1898. Now you can find Saltines in America under the brand “Premium,” by Nabisco.

Keep educating us, Wikipedia.

After the term “saltine” began to be used to refer to all crackers of this sort, Nabisco lost its trademark. In 1907, the word “saltine” was in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, defined as, ‘”a thin crisp cracker usually sprinkled with salt.”‘

And there we go. A brief history of the saltine.

So how has the saltine permeated pop culture?

Well, most restaurants serve a plastic-wrapped packet of two saltines with soup. The idea is that you crumble or dip the saltine into the soup, making it perfectly water-logged and delicious. I have fond memories of this treat from my glutenous days.

Twofer

Twofer

[I must include a warning here. The saltine has a hexagonal cousin, the oyster cracker. These babies are also often made by Premium, the same company that makes most saltines in the US, and are often served with soups. Do not be fooled. Oyster crackers, while similar, are a far inferior, unquadrilateral product. In other words, they need to back the fuck off the territory of the saltines – the soups of America deserve the best.]

Oyster crackers' mug shot.

Oyster crackers’ mug shot.

Saltines are also often recommended to people with stomach viruses. They are extremely bland, and are very easy on the digestive system. Also, delicious, but usually only on the way down.

Additionally, there exists something called The Saltine Challenge. The goal sounds simple – eat 6 saltines in 60 seconds without drinking anything. Just six crackers? In 60 seconds? What pussy can’t do that? BUT WAIT. Saltines have a secret power, and that power is efficiently soaking up the saliva in the mouth. So, after chewing the saltines, the resultant crumbs are impossible to swallow, and many people fail. Oh, saltines, you sneaky bastards.

In conclusion, saltines are an important and valuable part of American culture. They have a proud history of feeding the sickly and soaking up the soups of our great nation. Thank you, saltines. It’s been so, so real.

February 28, 2013. Culture, Food, History, Rectangles. Leave a comment.

151. Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, is a beautiful work of historical fiction. It is the first book of a trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, an important adviser to Henry VIII of England during his reign. Unusually for historical fiction, Wolf Hall won the Man Booker Prize – an extremely prestigious award in the world of contemporary fiction (Mantel’s second book in the series, Bring Up the Bodies).

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall begins chronicling Henry VIII’s reign at the beginning of the downfall of Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and the rise of his second, Anne Boleyn. It chronicles Henry’s split from the Catholic church, and the threat of the protestant reformation. It also focuses on the political atmosphere of the time. There are so many different issues in play that it makes for such fascinating history. The book ends at the beginning of the fall of Anne Boleyn, after she fails to produce a male heir, and as Henry gets madder and more power hungry. Throughout, we also follow the personal life of Thomas Cromwell, a very smart and cunning man who knows how to run Henry’s court successfully.

This book is truly brilliant. The writing is fantastic – colorful and unbelievably gripping. I was thrilled that it was as long as it was, because I didn’t want it to be over. But what really makes Wolf Hall so interesting is that it paints Thomas Cromwell, a man historically depicted as a villain, in a very likable and sympathetic light. I have so much affection for the fictional Cromwell that I dread his inevitable downfall in the third book – something I know from historical context, so not a spoiler.

I highly recommend this book. It’s not gorgeous, high brow literature, perhaps – not James Joyce – but it is really fun to read, and definitely well written. The subject matter is hard to mess up, because it is so fascinating, and Mantel does a brilliant job with it.

February 27, 2013. Books, History, Rectangles, Religion. Leave a comment.

150. My New Oriental Rug

My friend Daniel (of Manhattan Nest) is the most brilliant thrifter I’ve ever met. Now, I love my thrifting. I don’t say that easily. But he has an eye like nobody else in the world.

A couple of weeks ago, we were on the Upper West Side, and we wandered into an antiques store. In the back of the store, hidden under a cupboard and several chairs, was a filthy oriental rug. But Daniel spotted it immediately. The men in the store offered it to him first for $125, which he bargained down to $100. Then they felt bad – as the rug was very dirty, and had some tears – and offered him $45. He was ecstatic – he got a rug that he loved for dirt cheap. And it ended up beautiful, if a little worn, once he vacuumed it.

Daniel's gorgeous rug, in his new rubber-floored kitchen.

Daniel’s gorgeous rug, in his new rubber-floored kitchen.

I grew up surrounded by oriental rugs. My mom loves them, and so do I. Our favorite type is Heriz, from Northwest Iran, which is an often more geometric style. The colors are so rich and beautiful, and the patterns just exquisite. However, these are not cheap when bought “new.” Of course, the best rugs are not new, per se, but old and in fantastic condition. Oriental rugs are basically put down in the streets for camels to pee on.

So, inspired by Daniel, I set out to find myself a cheap rug on ebay. I found this one for $65, including shipping. It’s a bit worn, but really very pretty. I have it in my kitchen – I apologize for the terrible lighting.

My new rug! The colors are prettier in person. It's still not as pretty as Daniel's, though.

My new rug! The colors are prettier in person. It’s still not as pretty as Daniel’s, though.

Bonus picture of Buckley on the rug (he loves it).

Bonus picture of Buckley on the rug (he loves it).

February 23, 2013. Beauty, Culture, Geography, Rectangles. 2 comments.

149. Deodorant

Are you aware that everyone is talking about your underarms?!?

Are you aware that everyone is talking about your underarms?!?

I’m kind of obsessed with our culture’s obsession with the antiseptic and over-clean. I don’t shower every day, because it’s bad for my skin and my hair. Both look much better with a little bit of oil. I’ve also read that some bacteria lives in the oils in our skin and keeps us healthy.

I also hate scented products. I love one or two sprays of my fancy, subtle, French perfume, but no more. I believe that no one should be able to smell your perfume unless they’re within kissing distance. I hate men in cologne – I’m a firm believer that Old Spice Deodorant mixed with natural man-smell is the best in the world.

The best smell.

The best smell.

Now, onto the subject of deodorants (in their rectangular packaging) and natural man-smell.

I recently read this amazing article about how deodorant and obsessive attention to smelling good became popular in the early 20th century. Before that, no one cared about smelling clean all the time. People covered up with perfume (generally fancy and French, thank you very much), but no one had been told that they had to be self-conscious about every natural smell they put out.

Cue the brilliance of the modern advertising movement. Ads were placed shaming women into insecurities about how they smell. Men came later, but soon experienced the same smell-shame that women did.

I’m going to go out on a limb here. I LIKE how men smell. For a little while, I dated a man who didn’t wear deodorant. He showered every day, so he was clean, but had a little bit of B.O. smell going on. It took some getting used to, but eventually, I really liked it. He smelled like a body. And our bodies should smell like bodies! And here is where I get back on my soap box.

Bodies are bodies. We shouldn’t pretend otherwise. Sex should smell like sex, not soap. People shouldn’t shower every day, compromising their health and the health of their skin and hair. Men and women shouldn’t load on perfume and cologne to cover up any natural scent that they may have. We need to reclaim the sensual power of the way we smell and taste when we’re a little bit dirty. Not saying we should embrace the gross, but a little bit of natural odor is, well, natural, and should be more acceptable. And, while I’m not ready to give up my deodorant yet, I like the idea that we could.

February 1, 2013. Culture, Rectangles, Truth. 1 comment.

148. Lovely Package

Clearly I’m back in school again, because I’m in class and have the time/level of boredom to continue in my blogging efforts.

Lovely Package is a website celebrating innovative and beautiful design on products. There are some truly beautiful pieces of design here, both student design pieces and true packaging that one would find on store shelves.

Here, we have a photo from Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers. I love the old-fashioned labels on here.

So sweet and pretty

So sweet and pretty

Here, Hardeger Huppen biscuits.

Love the old-fashioned lion imagery, mixed with the silly tongue.

Love the old-fashioned lion imagery, mixed with the silly tongue.

Finally, Sweet Botanicals.

Clearly, my tastes veer toward the pretty and vintagey.

Clearly, my tastes veer toward the pretty and vintagey.

My one complaint is that there are a lot of very similar aesthetic choices celebrated on here. Clearly, the people behind Lovely Package have a clear design preference and kind of limit what they feature to a very specific look. Lots of busy, folksy designs, which I’m not a huge fan of. For example:

lovely-package-kalusher-1-e1353880572326

lovely-package-schooner-exact-brewing-company-11-e1353890012448 lovely-package-gustavo-bife-fernandes-1-e1353893032583

 

February 1, 2013. Art, Culture, Rectangles, Websites. Leave a comment.