Friday, November 21, 2008

My Great-Grandmother's Graham Crackers

Saturday morning a long time ago. A young Lady Susan wakes up before the rest of her family, reveling in the quietness and stillness of early morning. She walks downstairs to the kitchen, opens up a cupboard, and from a cardboard box pulls out an unopened sleeve of graham crackers. Pouring herself a tall glass of milk, she takes the graham crackers and milk with her into the TV room to catch the Saturday morning cartoons alone before the rest of the family wakes up.

To me, nothing says comfort and childhood like graham crackers. I think I lived and breathed graham crackers growing up. They were an obvious favorite breakfast food of mine; I could easily eat a whole sleeve in one sitting, dipping the crackers briefly in milk before munching down on them. Then for a snack, I would spread a thin layer of butter on a length of cracker, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and microwave for a few seconds until the butter had melted and the cracker was warm. Mmm. That of course was before the day of marketed cinnamon graham crackers.

Perhaps I am just an overgrown child, but I still like my graham crackers. I won’t lie. On lazy Saturday mornings, I have been known to grab a couple as a preview for breakfast.

Which is why I am completely at an utter loss.

I just finished reading, “In defense of food: An eater’s manifesto” by Michael Pollan. It is a brilliant book. I have been bringing it up in almost every conversation I have with people, with only the slightest tie-in to the current conversation. If you are obsessed with food at all, or if you just like to eat, you really should read this book.

The book is stuffed with terribly interesting information, to much for me to go into here. However I was impressed by two mantras that Pollan suggests to incorporate into your food decisions.

  1. Don’t eat anything that your Great-Grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  2. Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar, B) unpronounceable, C) more than five in number, or that include D) high-fructose corn syrup.

The second rule is more for food items that your Great-Grandmother might have recognized as food but have since been so modified with additives that they are just a faint imitation of what they once were.

Which brings me back to the start of my post. Take for example the love of my childhood, the lowly graham cracker. The ingredients for Honey Maid graham crackers are as follows:

ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), SUGAR, GRAHAM FLOUR (WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT FLOUR), SOYBEAN OIL, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED OIL, HONEY, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE), SALT, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SOY LECITHIN-AN EMULSIFIER, CORNSTARCH.

My Great-Grandmother would seriously be confused with the ingredients in this box of crackers. Why do they need enriched flour? Traditionally, graham crackers are made with graham flour (basically coarsely ground whole-wheat flour). No need to replace the good stuff with inferior, beefed-up white flour. Obviously, the HFCS is out. I just think cottonseed oil is weird. Who things of making oil out of cotton seed and why? I also am skeptical about the artificial flavoring needed when they are supposed to be sweetened/flavored with honey. And last but not least, I really can’t pronounce soy-lecithin. So that is out too.

If I were to follow Pollans advice, I would shun graham crackers for life. I don’t think I can do that. Lady Susan’s inner child must have her graham crackers to drive away the despair and trials of adulthood.

I think though the problem has been solved.


Last weekend, Mr. F. and I made our own graham crackers. Man-oh-man are they tasty. And filling--Lady Susan will no longer be indulging in a whole sleeve. If I tried that with these little squares not only would I be seriously full, I would also have a serious case of the runs. No need to start your day with that.

The ingredients are all familiar and part of our permanent pantry, something Great-Grandmother would approve of:

Cinnamon
Baking soda
Salt
Baking powder
Flour
Dark brown sugar
Graham flour (You can find this in the store, but we just coarsely ground our own wheat, because we are crunchy like that)
Butter
Molasses (or honey)
Milk
Vanilla

The recipe we followed is here. However you can find version of it all over the internet. They are rather quick to make and……dare I say it? Vastly superior to the graham crackers I ate as a child.



1 comment:

MBC said...

Oooh, I'm going to try to make these. They look excellent!

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