Recently, my husband was bothered that I did not have Saltines in the pantry. I told him to use the Ritz crackers we had, and when those were gone, I would restock on Monday (I had already made the second trip of the week and had $18 of grocery budget left before pay period, but did not say so). This was not an okay answer. Apparently, in certain circles, Ritz are relegated to cheese and other tasteful canapé-associated items. Saltines are for soups, he insisted, and having soup with the wrong cracker was some kind of taboo. Ultimately, I decided that arguing about crackers would cost us more emotionally than the $2.50 to buy them and the $1 of gas it cost to go round trip from the house.
Later, I found myself musing about crackers. Growing up, Ritz crackers were too expensive for us to buy—having them was an absolute treat. We had Saltines, which as a result, I despised for years, and still only purchase with reluctance. Saltines have fallen on that list of food items that I associate with other pantry-stretchers my mother employed during our leanest years. This food had nutritional value, but having had to resort to it so often, I employ these items as seldom as possible: tuna casserole, cube steak, canned mixed vegetables, canned vegetables in general, and American cheese—those being just some of what I can remember. In college, canned tuna, macaroni and cheese, and ramen noodle soup became food budget fillers in the dorm. After graduation, I could not eat either of the former two items for years. I still won’t eat ramen noodle soup. I have not touched American cheese in years; its plastic consistency and texture is repulsive.
When I told my father about my husband’s rationale for crackers he responded humorously with an email from which I have copied the following:
Crackers. Oyster crackers are for soup; Saltines are utility outfielders; Ritz crackers are basically conveyances for solids and near liquids, and Waverly are upper middle class but with the same function. Kaveli crackers are truly upper class conveyances of delicate solids. Rice crackers are sought by Veggans and health advocates. The most ambitious use of a saltine was one by *Jimmy Faulkner: bacon wrapped cracker run in a microwave. Crackers, glorious crackers.
I suppose we should all be allowed our favorites. I won’t buy Hunt’s ketchup, for example; it’s too acidic. Nor will I purchase Hellman’s sandwich dressing (it ain’t mayo, baby). I prefer applesauce that does not have additional sugar or high fructose corn syrup. I enjoy hot tea produced by Twinings or the other “hot tea specialty” brands, as Lipton’s black tea brews better for cold-consumption. Most readers here know how I feel about coffee, but when out or in the homes of friends, I’ll still drink weak or generic coffee simply for the warmth, the comfort, the ritual, and the social engagement it seems to foster.
I’ll take peace over particulars any day.
*Note on the Jimmy Faulkner comment—Jimmy, the nephew of the famed William Faulkner, once made this bacon concoction for my parents claiming all the while that this was a special treat. My father recalled that the soggy cracker and bacon mess was awful. I told him that it was “redneck dumplings”.