Ah, the humble saltine cracker. It won't win any beauty contests. It's not studded with interesting nuts or exotic dried fruits. It doesn't boast any artisanal seeds or organic herbs, either. You might think it's rather plain — certainly nothing to celebrate.
You'd be wrong. It's the perfect cracker. Here's why.
A Short History of Saltines
F.L. Sommer and Company is credited with making the first saltine cracker in 1876 and, in 1907, the word "saltine" was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary with a definition of "a thin crisp cracker usually sprinkled with salt."
But this humble cracker's origins can be traced back thousands of years to an unleavened biscuit called hardtack. The difference is that saltines, also known as soda crackers, use a touch of yeast (in addition to flour and baking soda).
Some varieties have coarse salt crystals sprinkled on top; most have perforations on top. These trademark holes help prevent the cracker from pillowing as its gasses escape during the baking process.
Saltines Are Incredibly Versatile
So, what makes saltines the perfect cracker? They are, of course, an ideal cracker for soups, stews, and chilis, adding texture and a hit of salt to whatever's in your bowl. But there's so much more to this under-appreciated cracker.
They can be a vehicle for myriad dips, spreads, and cheeses — soft ones, hard ones, and everything in between. In the South, they're traditionally served alongside bowls of pimento cheese.
These simple, salty crackers also play the role of star ingredient. They can be used to bind crab cakes and give heft to meatballs; toasted with a little butter, saltine crumbs take a pan of baked mac and cheese to new heights.
They're a surprising addition to your desserts, too. Trust me — you haven't truly lived until you've tried a Saltine crack ice cream sandwich. It's as heavenly as it sounds.
How many crackers can boast that kind of versatility? I don't see Triscuits featured in any dessert recipes. (Yes, I just threw shade at Triscuits.)
Saltines Make You Feel Better
Not to be underestimated, saltines are great for noshing on if you just don't feel like eating much. Maybe you're nursing a wicked hangover, feeling nauseous, or even battling a run-of-the-mill cold. Relative blandness is actually a plus!
These unassuming crackers are enough to satisfy both small appetites or sore tummies. Nibble on a few saltines and you'll feel better in no time.
Saltines Are Nostalgic
Unlike a lot of foods from my childhood (cough — Hershey bars — cough), saltines taste exactly the same as when I was a kid. No, their recipe hasn't changed for over a century.
One of my earliest memories is eating saltine crackers with my Campbell's chicken noodle soup at my grandma's house. One bite of a saltine's delicate airiness brings me back to that kitchen table.
And that's why they're best.
Do you love saltines, too? Or are you in the Triscuit camp?