Saltine crackers go well with many foods. Let’s start with sardines. I don’t know how I lost my taste for sardines but wish I could find it. A recent health article recommended eating oily fish on a regular basis. Sardines were ranked in the top group and for good reason. They push the limits as to how oily a fish can be.
During my youth, I considered sardines quite appetizing. Daddy deserves most of the credit for that. Watching him enjoy them made me want to join the party. They were his Sunday night after church go-to meal. He’d roll back the thin tin top with the key glued to the can, douse the little fish with vinegar, then sprinkle them with black pepper. Sometimes he’d add onion, but I left that off. My appreciation for onions didn’t evolve until I discovered what they can do for a poolroom hotdog.
It’s possible my taste buds changed when I over analyzed the canning process. As I began wondering how thoroughly those tiny fish had been cleaned, that was the beginning of the end. Plus, I’ve grown increasingly reluctant to eat anything that looks like it could still swim.
The perfect complement to the sardines of yesteryear was Saltine crackers. That’s probably still the case, but my opinion was formed back when the salt in a single cracker could elevate blood pressure by twenty points. Saltines don’t seem as potent as they were in my youth. Either the crackers have changed, or I have. Or it may be a little of both.
Saltines, it should be noted, are well suited for other fine foods – potted meat and Vienna sausage being in the top tier. It’s been a long time since I’ve dined on either of those once cherished fares also. My menu was downsized after I spent too much time thinking about the meaning of “genuine meat byproducts.” Some things are best not to know unless we want to let go.
Soup is another good fit for Saltines as is chili. Or if you want a great snack just smear a little peanut butter on top of a cracker. Saltines go well with salads too, although they now face considerable competition. Life was much simpler in childhood when the only choices were Saltines or Ritz.
A Saltine’s finest pairing, based on my highly refined palate, may be when it’s topped with good cheese. One of my treasured memories is of eating crackers and hoop cheese on Max Garland’s boat in the Gulf of Mexico. We were fishing for trout, drifting in the flats out from the mouth of the Econfina River. That was probably thirty years ago or maybe more. It’s a blessing that good memories don’t easily fade.
Max was a friend of my father-in-law, Bennett Horne. They fished together a lot of Saturdays and I was fortunate enough to join them on a number of occasions. Max was a big man, well over 300 pounds. He didn’t have a sculpted body like folks who advertise exercise equipment, but he had some serious horsepower in his massive hands.
On one of our fishing trips Max pulled out a giant hunk of cheese he’d bought at a country store. It was the kind with the red wax coating that was sliced to order before packaged products became the norm. Max set the cheese on the side of the boat and said we’d let it warm for a spell in the sunshine.
An hour or so later, he opened a box of Saltines. As the late comedian Jerry Clower would have said, “That’s when we commenced to eating.” It was the best cheese I’d ever had and always will be.
I don’t know if there’s less salt in Saltines today or it’s my imagination. It could be that the salt has become rather mellow. Salt can look the same but have no savor. I know that can happen because Jesus mentioned it in Matthew 5:13.
“You are the salt of the earth,” he said. “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
Maybe I’m wrong and I hope I am, but it seems to me the salt of the earth is becoming increasingly bland. That’s a troubling thought because salt without savor is useless. But what bothers me most is something I need to work on. I’m finding it far too easy to get accustomed to the taste.