Saltines

Holly Varni

May 30, 2022

If there is an elixir to life, I believe it is the saltine cracker, or, as my mother called it, the soda cracker. The remarkably plain and humble cracker has been the silent, unsung hero for generations, and I think it’s time we give the appropriate appreciation to this staple in our cupboards. Similar to the great-aunt or uncle who showed up every Sunday for dinner during your childhood, it never occurred to you that the spot at the dining room table would not be filled by them. That is what the saltine cracker is—the distant relative who is there without fail. It is the companion in the kitchen in the middle of the night when you aren’t really hungry but you can’t sleep and need a little something, and it’s that secret remedy for every flu bug, tummy ache, and digestive discomfort.

Tried and true, the soda cracker has withstood time. I looked it up, and the saltine cracker originated in 1876, so my great-grandparents were among the first to benefit from it. I find that thrilling. I called up my grandchildren and said, “I may have been around for the invention of the computer, but your great-great-grandmother was around for the creation of the saltine cracker.” Oddly enough, I didn’t get the enthusiastic response I was expecting.

Maybe they’re still too young to understand that the saltine cracker is the answer to most problems—physical, emotional, and otherwise. For instance, when my friend called and was worried about her dog who hadn’t moved from its bed all day, I told her to give the dog a few saltines. The next day, the dog was a right as rain again.

My grandmother always kept a few saltines wrapped in a handkerchief that she tucked in her purse. If the Sunday sermon ran too long, she’d slip a couple to me and it gave me the strength to endure the long liturgy. Saltines played a role in my salvation as a child.

In my house, I don’t just have a single box on hand; I keep a stockpile. When my kids were growing up, if one of them was going to be up late doing homework, I’d leave them a whole sleeve of crackers for good luck. If they were worried or nervous about something going on at school, I’d put some in their lunch. The cracker is like a hug and Tylenol in one.

In my long life, I have found the solution to most problems to be, “Give them a saltine.”

Have a homesick kid at college? Send them a box of saltines to remind them of the warmth of home. It’ll give them that little extra oomph to help make it through being separated from family.

Have cranky kids whining about dinner not being ready? Give them a couple saltines to tide them over. Remind them that licking the salt off first will make them last longer.

Have a friend crying about the woes of life? Give them some saltines with a cup of tea. They’ll settle down so you can talk.

That’s the magic of them. There is something about this ordinary cracker that seems to set the world right again. The boring, unpretentious saltine cracker is a reminder that there is good in the most basic things. The pure and simple things in life are just that.

If you don’t believe me, put out a plate of peanut butter on saltines and time how long it is until they’re gobbled up. No one can resist the token from childhood. Saltines are wonderful as a snack, in soup, or simply nibbled for comfort.

After watching the news, it seems our world is in need of saltine crackers more than ever. The president was having a meeting with another world leader, and from their troubled expressions, all I could think was, “Somebody needs to give them some saltine crackers.”

If I had been there, I would have given them some from the stash in my purse, but I guess I’ll just have to mail a box to the White House. I’m sure eating some, will set the president straight, just like my friend’s dog.

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