cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Graham Crackers - Sexless Hardtack

to make my harlot of a cookieSo it appears that there are no graham crackers in Brazil. (that is a country in South America by the way.) No graham crackers? I whisper, how on earth...they are the blandest, most widely known and consumed childhood day-care snack in America. What do you mean you don't have graham crackers? I ask my editor as he says, dunno what you're talking about, I've never tried one, I think they don't exist here. Well well well what have we here; they're not actually American, are they? Who else knows nothing of this cookie titled cracker? On closer consideration, never do I remember spotting one in France. Perhaps they truly are an American thing. And really what the hell is a graham cracker anyway? Such questions are in want of answers, therefore, we attack. On y va.

The graham cracker: A Purely American Invention; and like most of those was obviously not good enough (ouch) to have traversed any international borders. Though the quaint "international aisles" of many a Carrefour undoubtedly stock two or three boxes somewhere out there. It's closest cousin being the digestive, or digestif found throughout Europe. A close examination of the cracker traces its origins to an early nineteenth century no-where town in Jersey at the hands of Presbyterian minister Rev. Sylvester Graham. Presbyterian bakers? Uh oh, we already have that heart-healthy Quaker. This should be hauntingly stimulating. Rev. Graham named the biscuit for himself--clearly either an act of modesty or severe lack of self-image--the cracker is tasteless and visually unpleasing, which is why it formed the center of the Graham Diet; a regime aimed at tearing the mind away from impure thoughts and the suppression of sexual desires, which Graham beleived to be stimulated by sensual cuisine. Ah, it all makes sense now, of course there are no graham crackers in Brazil. (remember that's a country.) Hey I made a joke, laugh.

The graham cracker was then ultimately created to make people so utterly miserable with lack-luster food that any and all desire to have sex, masturbate (also known as "self abuse" that led to insanity and blindness. so just keep that in mind), have an orgasm, drink alcohol, roll your eye funny, and think a couple naughty thoughts were suppressed and overcome. According to Graham, pleasing foods were the devil, and their production and consumption led one down the lustful path toward sexual desire, which in turn led to bad health. (Perhaps this stems from a private cholesterol grudge?) Grahams followers, known as Grahamites, founded the core of the era's temperance movement, and under the leadership of the Reverend, founded the American Vegetarian Society. Bloody hell--Bourdain is always right. If you are yet left with any doubt of the Reverend remember this--he outlawed tea. What say you now. A pious man? For my tea I say to hell with the bastard.

The original graham cracker was made from unsifted coarsely ground wheat flour, as refined flour was chemically induced and cheating so to speak. But then why are graham crackers so popular (in America) today? Let's face it--there is nothing commercially produced without refined flour, therefore, Graham's cracker is now a slightly sexier cookie, with sensual varieties from honey to chocolate to cinnamon. And forget not their tempting shapes--the teddy bear graham, dino-grahams, and zoo animals. Most Americans enjoy grahams with a variant topping; peanut butter, sweet creamed cheese, jams, and yogurts. And what about the s'more? Can it get sexier than the s'more? Chocolate and marshmallow melting into each other until fused between two graham crackers-- Sorry Reverend, your biscuit's been sexed.

But we here at the Salty Cod want to do better--we're sexier than some silly blob of peanut butter or shmear of cream cheese--we'll take the reverend's chaste biscuit and corrupt its healthy wholesomeness. Oh little cracker your virginity has now been given to your seducers--sugar, flour, honey, white chocolate, and butter. Yes let's make cookies!

White Chocolate & Honey Graham Cracker Cookies:
Ingredients: 2 cups white refined-bad-for-you flour ~ 1 cup crushed honey graham crackers ~ 1 tbsp milk ~ 2 tbsp honey ~ 1 cup white chocolate chips or peices ~ 2 sticks butter ~ 0.75 cup sugar ~ 1.5 tsp vanilla extract.

method: 1) beat room temperature butter with sugar until creamy. 2) add vanilla, honey, milk, graham crackers, and chocolate. 3) sir stir stir. 4) add flour. 5) roll into two long longs, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 2 hours. 6) cut into disks and cook at 375 for 10 or 12 minutes. 7) feel like an adulterous heathen.

photo of lighthouse courtesy of minha mãe -- somewhere in Maine

Graham crackers really are the classically pure snack, they are more often than not associated with children, as American children are often given the blander and more basic tastes of the world. I say American, for I know with near certainty a French child, such as little Flo, would snub her nose as high as la tour can reach at it.

We associate simple with purity, perhaps that is why I thought to turn to graham crackers for these cookies made special to send in the mail in a care package to my younger sister at the University of New England in the other northern corner of the country where everyone lives in a lighthouse. Now, I wouldn't go as far as saying she's an angel, but my mushroom topped little blond baby brings me to thoughts of sometime ago eating graham crackers. Hell I don't even know if she likes them! But nestled among other treats and treasures (such as white chocolate and honey rice crispy treat topped with candy corn), all sinful flavors of course, chocolates, fashion magazines, I hope they find their way to her stuffy little dorm room with a little bit of innocence.

A cracker for abstinence. A futile attempt to create a homemade sacrament wafer? Yet another course of history. Like most crusades aimed at quashing that most destructive of human sins (no not murder, sex) this one backfired. The graham cracker incorporated into mainstream American pop culture, reformatting itself with every fold, and each time moving piece by piece, crumb by crumb away from its maker until complete recognition as purely an after school snack for children sprinkled with cinnamon and honey, and all connectivity to its pious past forgot--save for its name. To condemn the pleasures of cuisine to sin is unto itself a sin. If food lovers, chefs, and bakers were and are sexual deviants of seduction--then i am guilty, so pass the wine and chocolate, and let's play dress up with this little graham.

à bientôt


Núria said...

Fantastic post Mallory! Sharp, incisive, fun... Am I becoming your fan or what????

He, he, haven't seen Graham crackers here, but surely I can find them at gourmet shops. Not a Spanish habit, we rather go for churros ;D

Anonymous said...


I had no clue what graham crackers were... But after I saw your pictures... I think this is the closest Brazil can get to it:

Great post by the way! Poor old Graham... hahaha Loved it!


Anonymous said...

those are the best cookies evvvverrrr

everyone loves them! and none of you commenting people got to eat them! =] =] =] =] =]

no one can guess what they are made out of either, its funny

thanks mallory!!!

Nikki @ NikSnacks said...

Oh how I love this about grahams! I feel enlightened, smarter, and somewhat full after reading this. Thank you!

Maggie said...

Wonderful backstory and delicious looking cookies! As a kid I had a digestive biscuit obession and would make my parents buy several boxes of them every time we went to Windsor (Canada). At the time they didn't sell them over the border in Detroit where we lived.

Patsyk said...

You have the most amazing food photos!

I never would have thought graham crackers would be so hard to find outside of the U.S. I bet yours taste better than the store-bought one's anyway!

thanks for stopping by my blog! Hope to see you again!

Manuela © said...

Well, I'm in the middle of the Atlantic and I can find it :)
I also thought they were common everywhere, maybe with other brandnames...

Your cookies look great, the taste must be very original :)

Mallory Elise said...

good to know, thanks manuela---

everyone there ARE graham crackers in the Azores!


Katie said...

Rev. Graham's craziness reminds me of the pastor in Chocolat.

What an interesting story! I never realized that graham crackers were totally American. I like them every so often with milk, almost as a breakfast cereal. I will have to give your sexy version a try!

Rachel said...

I miss candy corn a lot more than graham crackers. Those pictures of candy corn made my mouth water.

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

bland they might be, but cinnamon graham crackers are my favorite cookies... crumbled. on top, inside, on the bottom... of anything. lovely photos!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Love some of these shots...very beautiful and creative!

Kira キラ said...

I've been looking everywhere for graham crackers down here in Brasil! As the only gringa amongst all my friends, I feel the need, as an intercambista, to expand their knowledge for their poor souls have never heard of nor seen a smore in their lives (let alone a cheesecake with the crust made of graham crackers). Sad to know that, unless I can beg to no end for my mom in the US to send some down, my poor amigos must suffer.

Unknown said...

Actually, America is the continent, it includes us all. You need to remind that food is a local cultural factor. Each country has its own. How fun would it be if we all ate the same things?

But it's cool to see USA importing acai berries and lots of other things we produce here. Thanks.