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Go Crackers This Holiday Season

December 15, 2016
By Heidi Maness Hartwiger - Natural Parent, Natural Child Series , OVParent

Some people go nuts planning holiday party treats. Others go crackers. In every grocery there is long tempting cracker aisle. Shoppers clog this aisle considering the varieties and the endless serving possibilities. Along with trendy flavored crackers, three perennial favorites - Ritz, saltines and graham crackers - usually end up in the shopping cart.

A buttery, round cracker was introduced in the Northeast during Depression times. By 1935, it was popular across America. This crisp, tasty cracker derived its name "Ritz" from the elite Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York. No doubt after one yummy bite, folks believed better times would come.

Long before the buttery rounds came a square, salted cracker - the saltine. In 1801, this crunchy cracker was created, not as an anti-nausea aid for morning sickness or first solid food after stomach flu, but as a tasty snack for sailors long out at sea. Soon every general store had a "cracker" barrel. Nothing satisfied the appetite and pleased the pocketbook like a fist full of crackers and a wedge of cheddar cheese. During the Depression, so it is said, creative cooks made saltine souffles by filling a baking dish with saltines, covering with water then baking until puffy.

The go-to cracker for holiday use seems to be the multipurpose graham cracker. Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian minister, was known for his dedication to physical and spiritual health. He was a force in the health reform movement during the early 1800s. It is reported that he thought ketchup and mustard caused insanity and that eating meats and fats led to sinful excess. He encouraged a high fiber, vegetarian diet including homemade bread made from unsifted wheat flour instead of refined white flour. Barrels of graham flour were positioned in groceries encouraging the homemaker to bake wholesome bread. He had such a following in the 1820s and 1830s that groups in the Northeast who wished to follow this lifestyle sequestered themselves in "Graham Boarding Houses."

No one seems to know exactly when Graham developed his famous cracker. Some suggest the late 1820s. Others believe the graham cracker arrived decades after his death. In1882, the first graham cracker recipe appeared in a cookbook. Although our teething infants find pleasure gnawing on graham crackers, Sylvester Graham would cringe because today's crackers contain refined flour.

Would he approve a peanut-butter-slathered graham cracker? A graham cracker crust for a peppermint ice cream pie might cause serious grave spinning. Perhaps he'd OK kids constructing a holiday graham cracker cottage.

For no frustration construction of such a structure, use a pint dairy container as internal support. Use four graham crackers, white icing and assorted small candies. Break two crackers into squares for sides and roof. Leave two whole for front and back cutting two corners off each, shaping points for roof support. Position sides around the carton. Join the corner seams with icing. Let dry. Glue roof on with icing. Ice the roof and sides then decorate with candies. Cluster these small edible houses for a "village" table decoration.

Heidi Maness Hartwiger a Wheeling native, is a writer, teacher and storyteller. She is a mother of four and a grandmother of five.



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