I know people that could serve me canned tuna and saltine crackers and have me feel more at home at their table than some people who can cook circles around me. The more you try to impress people, generally the less you do. —Alton Brown
Crackers may well be one of the oldest forms of prepared food known to humanity. After all, it doesn’t really take much to make them. A little flour, a little water, at minimum; maybe a little salt, possibly a little baking powder if that’s not against one’s religious convictions, is all one needs to make crackers. Those ingredients have been around for thousands of years, and to a large extent the recipes haven’t changed all that much, though one might argue that the base ingredients have evolved along with us. One might argue whether humans or the grains have survived that evolution well, but both of us are still here and crackers are still just as much a staple of the modern diet as they were for our ancestors. Some things just can’t really be improved upon all that much.
Among all the various types of crackers available in the universe, saltines may be the most prevalent. Not only are they simple, they are inexpensive which puts them in high demand among the 98 percent of us who actually have to pay attention to the price of food. They provide accompaniment to everything from simple soups to fancy hors d’Oeuvres without risking upsetting anyone’s stomach. One can even purchase low-sodium saltines, which seems rather counter-intuitive at first, but since I’ve become one of the millions who has to watch their blood pressure I understand the concern over what a little salt can do to a body. My personal preference is for those round butter-flavored crackers, again the low-sodium kind. I can devour a sleeve of those and still eat a full meal. Children love fish-shaped crackers with artificial cheese flavoring. Multi-grain crackers are nice, but seem almost too fancy for everyday use. There’s a different cracker for everyone. What’s important is your crackers and making sure they’re always available.
For this project, we crumbled a single sleeve of saltines, going for that fine consistency one gets when the little cracker package one gets with the salad at a truck stop is handed to a two-year-old. While crackers don’t weigh a great deal, they are still subject to the laws of gravity and this is one of the sets we shot with the model standing rather than lying down. Of all the different substances we tried, crackers spread the most evenly. We tried a couple of different kinds of crackers, but saltines provided the most contrast and recognizable texture.
Look around your kitchen; chances are you have a sleeve or a box of crackers sitting somewhere on a shelf. If you are one of my sons, you have a sleeve sitting next to your computer. Your crackers are what gives life to other boring foods, such as simple cheeses or processed meats. Your crackers leave a trail of crumbs to help us find you should you become misplaced (or hiding because you’re two and have pooped your pants). Your crackers fill the culinary cracks where one needs texture without noticeable taste. Most importantly, though, your crackers are your crackers. No one else can eat your crackers without permission. Should you choose to share your crackers, you are a nice person, but we understand if you don’t. It’s probably nap time, anyway. Brush the crumbs off your shirt and lie down. Your crackers will be right here when you wake up. Have a good nap.