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You know you like them.

If ever I said, in grief or pride, I tired of honest things, I lied…

— Edna St. Vincent Millay

Why are there so many varieties of crackers in the grocery store? My answer: So that we can go on pretending to ourselves that we wouldn’t much rather have a simple saltine. The ridiculous prices of “fancy” crackers ought to be enough to put you off them. Really, how much should some spices or bird seed add to the cost?

As we all strive to purge ourselves of our food snobbery and honor the simple provincial things, let’s honor crackers. The saltine cracker, I believe, was developed in the 19th century, in America, as a kinder, gentler alternative to hardtack. They became popular very quickly and even spread to other parts of the English-speaking world.

These days, they’ve even gotten a bit healthier. Reduced salt and fat-free versions are available pretty much everywhere. Whole Foods’ house brand, 365, is a very nice cracker made with honest oils and reduced salt.

When I was a young’un, growing up in the country and being dragged very much against my will to a Baptist church every Sunday, and often on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights as well, saltine crackers were sometimes broken into pieces and used for communion crackers (with Welch’s grape juice). How holy is that?

Might a nice, crusty baguette go better with a bowl of soup? Sure. But we don’t always have a nice, crusty baguette, do we? Whereas crackers, like the poor, are always with us.

Note: The photograph above was lit by two votive candles and required a 30-second exposure at f/16. Click on the photo for a larger version.

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