The Basic Soda Cracker

Drawn by Karen Appleton.

Crackers meant one of two events was happening: illness or soup was served. The crackers that came with soup in a restaurant were great snacks before the regular meal  arrived It also provided sustenance in the case of stomach flu and other illnesses when the stomach was queasy. And great for pregnant women in times of queasiness.

The variety of crackers today  means a person doesn’t just have to eat those tasteless wafers. And growing up a cracker with peanut butter was a wonderful snack, mid-afternoon or late evening. Cheese and crackers with a glass of milk laid the groundwork for a good night’s sleep.

Searching for the background and history of the cracker barrel, non-capitalized, proved fruitless. I’ll continue, but my limited understanding is that general stores had cracker barrels to snack from or to pull out a handful, weigh them, pay for them, and take them home. All I found on Google was the Cracker Barrel store. As soon as I hit paydirt and find more about these store barrels, I’ll add it here.

From Wikapedia I found a couple facts about cracker basics. This amplified what I had known:

As a home remedy, saltines are consumed by many people in order to ease nausea and to settle an upset stomach. Pregnant women are also usually advised to snack on saltines.

And as far as crackers vs. hard tack, there’s this:

Baking process. Saltines have been compared to hardtack, a simple unleavened cracker or biscuit made from flour, water, and sometimes salt. However, unlike hardtack, saltines include yeast as one of their ingredients. Soda crackers are a leavened bread that is allowed to rise for twenty to thirty hours.

My mom often told me how her father, Ole Larson from Norway, sailed for a living and also came to the US from Norway with a friend in the 1880s. He told Mom and the family about eating hardtack as sustenance.

The cracker. Sorry if this is all over the place, but I wanted to put together some bits of information on this common snack and sidekick for any kind of soup.


2 Replies to “The Basic Soda Cracker”

  1. Oh here is a little more about Hardtack. I am assuming the maggots were the protein … yuck!

    Healthiness : (556 votes)
    Comments: Take care when removing the biscuits from the oven – let them cool before moving them to a tray.
    Preparation Time: 20 minutes
    Cooking Time: 30-40 minutes
    Number of servings: 16 biscuits
    Serving suggestions: You’d be better off with digestives or shortbread!

    The name hardtack refers to the iron hard biscuits that were stored on ships during the Tudor and later periods. They were a staple part of the diet. They were made from a simple unleavened mixture of flour, water and salt, rolled out thinly and baked slowly until very hard and dry. We have added milk instead of water to our biscuits, and a little buitter, to make them more edible.

    If cooked slowly, these biscuits are a challenge for even the healthiest of teeth. The sailors must have softened them in some liquid to be able to eat them. Cooked properly, they are hard not brittle and no good for dunking in tea as they are still rock hard afterwards.

    However, in former times, maybe the maggots helped to break them down. As voyages progressed, the food would become infested with worms, maggots and other creatures. Ferdinand Columbus, describing one of his father’s voyages, wrote:

    “Food had become so wormy that sailors waited to dark to eat … so they could not see the maggots.” Interesting! I learn something everyday…

    1. Thanks for the hard tack information. I copied and saved it. I know my Grandpa Ole Larson ate a lot of it, a regular sailor from Norway and then sailing here about 1880. Useful and fun infor, will run it off to read it and work up a blog post.

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