Posts Tagged With: Nabisco

108/365: National Animal Crackers Day

It’s a real zoo around here today. We’re busy celebrating National Animal Crackers Day!

Animal crackers were first developed in England in the late 19th century. They were called animal biscuits, or simply “animals.” When they were imported to the United States they became an instant success. People couldn’t get enough of the sweet and crunchy elephants, giraffes, and manatees, so in order to fill the demand Stauffer’s Biscuit Company in Pennsylvania began making their own version right around the turn of the century. In 1902 the National Biscuit Company (now Nabisco) introduced “Barnum’s Animals,” animal crackers sold in a colorful train-themed box decorated with pictures of circus animals. They attached a string so the box could be used as a Christmas ornament and hung on the tree. Prior to that, crackers were usually sold in bulk or in large tins. The box, which sold for a nickel, became a huge hit, and is still manufactured today. (Sadly, it does not still sell for a nickel).

Originally, the animals were stamped out of a sheet of dough with a cutter, and had little detail. In 1948 Nabisco began using a rotary die cutter, allowing bakers to add detail to each cracker. Meaning, if they ever come out with a great white shark cracker, you’ll see the gleam of malevolent evil in its eye and the sharp razor points of each individual tooth. Come to think of it, that might be too scary for kids! But the animals do change over the years. Since 1902, there have been 54 different animals featured on the crackers. The newest addition, the koala bear, was added in 2002. Each box contains 22 crackers of a different variety, and part of the fun is the fact that you never know what you’re going to get, much like when you buy a pack of baseball cards or pick a hooker at random from the phone book.

I had a nice variety of animals in my box, including a camel, hippo, giraffe, lion, rhino, buffalo, a monkey eating a banana (great detail, thanks to those die cutters!), and – yes!! A koala bear!!

Best of all, they were every bit as good as I remembered.

Animal Crackers

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

16/365: National Fig Newton Day*

We had a choice of two holidays to celebrate today. International Hot & Spicy Food Day seemed a bit generic, though I did eat a handful of Spicy Cajun Peanuts this morning (and boy, could I feel the burn). But we settled officially on National Fig Newton Day. It’s been years since I’ve eaten a Fig Newton, and I was curious about the history behind this sorta-healthy-at-least-compared-to-other-cookies cookie.

In the 1800s, doctors believed that most illnesses were the result of digestive problems. Since Tums had yet to be invented, their recommendation was a diet rich in biscuits and fruit.Taking inspiration from this idea, a cookie maker in Ohio named Charles Roser invented a fig-stuffed cookie, killing two birds with one stone. Proverbially speaking, of course. It’s unclear why he chose figs, a fruit native to the Middle East that dates back to ancient times. Yes, the berries are edible and tasty, and the leaves make great genitalia covers. But you’d think he might have gone with something more common, like apples or strawberries. Nevertheless, Roser’s cookie was a hit, and he sold the recipe to the Kennedy Biscuit Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They named all their products after surrounding towns – there was a Harvard, a Shrewsbury, and a Beacon Hill – and the fig cookie became the Newton. Inventor James Henry Mitchell developed a machine that could produce an endless length of filled cookies, and in 1891 the Newton was mass-produced. In 1898 Kennedy Biscuits merged with a bunch of other bakeries to form the NAtional BIScuit COmpany, later shortened to – that’s right, boys and girls – NABISCO. Incidentally, the original F.A. Kennedy Steam Bakery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and turned into high-priced lofts. Call your realtor if you’re in the Boston area and looking for a new home with a historic background. But you’d better be rich. A 592-square foot studio apartment at the Kennedy Biscuit Lofts (real name) rents for $2684-$4105. Per month. Do you know how many Fig Newtons you could buy with that money?!

Newtons were renamed Fig Newtons, and then Nabisco began putting different fillings inside the biscuit. Flavors like strawberry, raspberry, and snozzberry. Wait, no – that was the Oompa-Loompas. Little-known fact: Fig Newtons are Mickey Mouse’s favorite cookie. Better-known fact: Mickey Mouse is a cartoon rodent, so why does that even matter? Early TV commercials featured a cowboy singing, “Yer darn tootin’, I like Fig Newtons.” The most recent advertising slogan is, “The fruit that thinks it’s a cookie.”

Yawn. Bring back the singing cowboy.

For this challenge, I had my eye set on Apricot & Mango Newtons, but as delicious as these sound, they are missing the essential ingredient of figs. So, the original flavor it was!

And you know what? They were tasty. Damn tasty. New fruit flavors aside, I’m glad we stuck with the original fig version!

National Fig Newton Day

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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