animal crackers: a sweet memory in every bite

 

Did you know that tomorrow, April l8, is National Animal Crackers Day? πŸ™‚

Oh, to return to a simpler, more innocent time, when it was all about glee rather than guilt!

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Frosted Animal Cookies via Life Made Simple (click for recipe)

 

ANIMAL CRACKER (no s)
by Gretchen Friel

My students are inspired to read
more poems aloud if I bring
frosted animal crackers to class.
All well and good for them,
they are not scouring the perimeter
of the grocery store lately,
choosing only fresh produce,
spinach and bananas
for sustenance.
They do not know that
I have removed the map
of interior aisles from my
shopping itinerary,
undone my bonds with
sugar and fat, so that
even the innocent glance
after snacks in aisle nine
causes guilt I may need to
confess
to someone,
my sister perhaps,
“Is there a nutritionist in the house?”
No answer.
I grasp firmly the airtight foil
bag of pink and white safari shapes.
Animal cookies with rainbow sprinkles
stare innocently at me from a
faraway land,
a past to which I cannot return.
I read the serving size and calorie count.
8 cookies, 160 calories.
20 calories for one soul.
I think,
not too long or hard,
cut the foil,
drink in a wave of sugar air,
only I could love this much,
try to decide between pink
and white.
Will they taste different?
I remove a single
white iced mountain goat,
hold him,
smell his
head

and indulge.
He travels the lonely caves
of my esophagus,
to a pit where I think
I hear him land.
Growling, you would think he is
a herd.
But no, his
is a solitary fate.
Delicious.

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Such willpower to eat only one!

Is it a cracker or a cookie? They’re made with a layered dough like a cracker, but have the sweetness of a cookie. Best of both worlds, I say!

 

 

I loved, loved animal crackers when I was little. It was a thrill to carefully examine and identify each one, then play with them for awhile before eating them. Did you bite the heads off first? Most people do. πŸ™‚

And oh, the box!! Barnum’s Animals Crackers in that red, yellow, and blue box with the extremely cool string handle. Nabisco decided to add the string so the box could be hung as a Christmas ornament, but we girls knew that it was really a purse. Long after the cookies were gone, our purses held small treasures (marbles, jacks, plastic jewelry, bubble gum, secret notes).

 

These days, the boxes have a fold-out cardboard handle instead of string. No, no, no. So wrong. Bring back the string!

At least thanks to PETA, the animals have finally been set free. Since 2018, there are no cages on Barnum’s Animal Crackers boxes.

 

 

Um, did you know animal crackers were first made by the British? πŸ™‚ They date back to the late 19th century and were called animal biscuits. Folks in the U.S. imported them, and they were so popular that eventually they were produced domestically — Stauffer’s likely made the first batch in York, Pennsylvania (1871). These were sold in bulk (barrels or large tins), until Nabisco came out with “Barnum’s Animals” in the famous circus-themed box (1902).

 

 

Over the years, there have been 53 different animals featured, with Barnum’s Animal Crackers laying claim to more varieties than any other company with 37. The only animals who’ve been there from the very beginning are lions, tigers, bears, and elephants. (Hooray for the bears!) The koala was added in 2002 by popular vote (to celebrate Nabisco’s 100th anniversary).

What were your favorite animals? In addition to the bears, I had a thing for the giraffe, camel and monkey. I’m actually old enough to remember when the animals were barely recognizable; it wasn’t until 1958 that Nabisco began using rotary dies instead of cutters, enabling them to engrave sharper details.

 

Click for King Arthur Flour Animal Cookies recipe

 

But back to the poem. I, too, miss those days when I could simply eat what I wanted and not worry about calories, never wondering if something’s “good” for me or not. Now, with every bit of sugar, there is guilt. Sigh.

 

 

Actually, I don’t remember eating very many frosted animal crackers during childhood, and I couldn’t find any information about who first made them and when. I’m thinking it could be Mother’s Circus Animals (if you know, please share!).

 

 

They certainly are cute, in pink and white with colorful sprinkles — yet some of those animals have told me that they feel a little suffocated and oppressed, since their beautifully etched details are hidden. πŸ™‚

Do boys find the frosted cookies too girly?

Must say, I’d like to be in Ms. Friel’s class. Sweet incentive for reading poetry aloud. Works for me.

As for her caloric concerns, perhaps she could indulge her frosted animal cookies love by wearing them instead of eating them. πŸ™‚

 

Circus Animal Cookie Necklaces by Fatally Feminine

 

Earrings by Fatally Feminine

 

Finally, since we’re in desperate need of comfort and reassurance these days, a little dose of Shirley Temple seems in order. The classic “Animal Crackers in My Soup,” from the movie “Curly Top” (1935) never loses its appeal. Thing is, she sang, “Monkeys and rabbits loop the loop,” but there has never been a rabbit animal cracker. Never mind, if Shirley could get America through the Great Depression, she can certainly make us feel better during this pandemic. Love her!

 

 

Thanks for joining us for this sweet bite of nostalgia. Do you have a favorite animal crackers memory to share?

 

 

BTW, pink or white? πŸ™‚

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The lovely and talented Molly Hogan is hosting the Roundup at Nix the Comfort Zone. Sashay on over, share a few animal cookies with her, then check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week. As before, stay safe, stay strong, be well!


Copyright Β© 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

59 thoughts on “animal crackers: a sweet memory in every bite

  1. Thanks so much for this very-much-needed dose of nostalgia and happiness, Jama! I, too, never had the opportunity to indulge in frosted animal crackers as a child, although I was always EXTRA-excited when my parents would find an occasional box of chocolate ones. Funny how the simplest pleasures leave the grandest memories.

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  2. First of all, pink! And…what a great post! I love the camels the best. Getting to buy “the” red box of animal crackers was a rare treat when I was a kid. But, I loved that! We went to the zoo for one of my birthdays as a kid and animal crackers were the fare. Oh, did I love that.I had no idea that animal crackers have been around so long.
    Thanks for fantastic post!

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  3. When I first read “scouring the perimeter of the grocery store,” I thought maybe this was a poem written this week! But then I figured out what she meant. πŸ™‚ Such a great post, Jama. You always come through! Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

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    1. Yes, it’s a good feeling that certain foods can be enjoyed from generation to generation. Even as an adult, animal crackers can bring comfort and fun memories. The frosted ones are too sweet for me but I imagine kids love them.

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  4. Animal crackers, in the little Barnum box, used to be my go-to snack when flying, even once I was a teenager. I made sure to provide animal crackers to my kids for travel when they were small, too, but, alas, they quickly grew out of the taste for them. (I, on the other hand, still LOVE those animal crackers, but not the store-brand ones, which are too dry.) I haven’t had the frosted ones in AGES, but I remember loving them. Yum!

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  5. I loved this post, Jama. Fascinating to hear that animal crackers originated in England. I couldn’t find them here in the UK when Sweetpea was small, so they became a treat we had when we visited “back home.” And “Animal Crackers in My Soup” was the song I would sing for her when we opened them.

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    1. Love that you sang Shirley’s song to Sweetpea! Didn’t realize the UK doesn’t sell animal crackers. Of course, IMHO, they have the best store bought biscuits. I still think about M&S bourbon cremes . . .:)

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  6. Thanks for the memories of these sweet treats, Jama! Funny, my daughter just this week told me she had a craving for the (non-frosted) animal crackers. We can’t get them here in Switzerland. Being confined has made us long for things from back home (in the US)…and comfort. I always loved the elephant ones. πŸ™‚

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    1. Yes, I can see why comfort foods (especially from childhood) would be things your family would crave now. There’s something about not being able to get something that makes us want them more. I remember craving root beer when I first moved to London (did finally find a store that carried imported sodas). I only wanted root beer because I couldn’t easily get it . . .

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  7. I never have liked the frosted ones, just the ones in the box & yes, I used the box for lots of other things, too. But, that jewelry is a delight! In the poem, the thoughts streaming makes me wonder if we all at this time are paying more & more attention to, well, everything! I love it all, but especially “sugar air”. It really does have a smell! My favorites were always the giraffe, perhaps because that long neck enables two bites? Savoring? Thanks, Jama, for the treat

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  8. I have to admit to never having tasted a frosted animal cracker. But if they are as delicious as Gretchen Friel’s poem, I have missed a lot. I loved those animal crackers when I was young because the whole box was MINE ALL MINE!

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    1. I liked the feeling of having a box all to myself too. I’ve only tasted Keebler’s frosted animals, which are okay, not something to write home about. Don’t know if Mother’s Circus Animals are better.

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  9. Oh, Jama, your post brings back so many memories of snacking on animal crackers and hanging onto that Barnum’s box–so useful for so many treasures once the cookies were gone. But that poem brought back the best memory. Once on the end-of-the-year evaluation that I asked my students to fill out, one suggested that class would be much better if I offered milk and cookies every day. They should have been in Mrs. Friel’s class!

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    1. What a fun memory. I kind of agree with your student — cookies and milk every day would be great, not only as incentive for reading poems aloud.

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  10. This was fascinating! I loved the poem, and once I got over the horror that they’ve removed the string handle on the Barnum box, I really enjoyed learning more. (Cardboard handle? Really!?!) Who knew there was so much history to animal crackers!? By the way, those earrings are the best! I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to find some for myself. A sweet indulgence with no calories πŸ™‚

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    1. Those earrings would definitely be a good conversation starter. πŸ™‚ Glad you’re in agreement about the missing string on the boxes. I imagine it’s costlier to produce.

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  11. Oh, how I remember loving animal crackers!! Loved looking at the box, loved the feel of that flat string, loved the not-too-sweet flavor of those little edible critters. (Hey – really, they’re the only way I eat animals at all in the last three decades, having gone vegetarian and all in my 20s… So I was okay with the PETA-induced re-design. ;0) ) Thanks for the sweet memories, Jama. And I think I’m with you re. the frosting – I’d rather see the little ‘carved’ details. That jewelry, however, is a hoot!

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    1. I always wondered whether vegetarians ate animal crackers! πŸ™‚ I think the animals on the box are happy with the change. No cages for them. Mr C has volunteered to lick the frosting off all the cookies we have in order to make those animals feel better (at least that’s what he’s telling us. I suspect he just likes frosting, period.

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  12. (PS – You probably blogged about it and I missed it, but did you see the History Channel specials about the early food moguls in the US? Fascinating drama around still-familiar brands!)

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  13. Thank you, Jama. Love the history and yes, I loved animal crackers in the box with the string. Can’t go with the frosted ones… I’m avoiding at least some sugar these days. (She says as the ice cream waits on the counter.) Oh well… The poem is great and what I do find interesting is how so many of the blog posts are centered on food. Hmmm…

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  14. Great post. I love the poem and also learning the history of Animal Crackers. These are not a thing in Australia, but as a child I remember reading about them in books, and even seeing pictures of them, and wishing we did have them here. I still wish this!

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    1. I’m surprised to hear you never had them in Australia — but read about them in books! Surely there must be some other kind of animal cookies there?

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  15. Oh, my! The memories! The box (and the purse/treasure chest after the cookies were gone)! And frosted animal crackers were just about the only thing I loved about Vacation Bible School! Those, and the songs, which are still brain-wormable, so I won’t quote any! I’m like Irene (and a few others) — frosted animal crackers are going on the grocery list today! The company will wonder about the uptick in sales, never knowing they need to thank you and Gretchen Friel!

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  16. As our quarantine continues, I find myself turning more and more to food for comfort (for better or worse). Your poem, background info, and photos are a comfort, Jama. It’s been a while since I indulged in an animal cracker, but my favorites were always the iced. I may have to add those to this week’s shopping list πŸ™‚

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  17. I sure identify with the sentiments of your shared poem. Nowadays I feel guilty eating graham crackers! I thought I was surprising my granddaughter the first time I bought her a box of animal crackers, It turns out she knew all about them as her mom buys them in huge bags! I have never tried the frosted ones. Give me the old plain animals!

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  18. Jama, I always love stopping by your post with its creative flare and oodles of cookies. Poetry and food what a combo. Thanks for the historical perspective and one of my little sweethearts, Shirley Temple. How I love the old days with animal crackers and old movies.

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