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.

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