Did you know that tomorrow, April l8, is National Animal Crackers Day? 🙂
Oh, to return to a simpler, more innocent time, when it was all about glee rather than guilt!
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
They do not know that
I have removed the map
of interior aisles from my
undone my bonds with
sugar and fat, so that
even the innocent glance
after snacks in aisle nine
causes guilt I may need to
my sister perhaps,
“Is there a nutritionist in the house?”
I grasp firmly the airtight foil
bag of pink and white safari shapes.
Animal cookies with rainbow sprinkles
stare innocently at me from a
a past to which I cannot return.
I read the serving size and calorie count.
8 cookies, 160 calories.
20 calories for one soul.
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
Will they taste different?
I remove a single
white iced mountain goat,
He travels the lonely caves
of my esophagus,
to a pit where I think
I hear him land.
Growling, you would think he is
But no, his
is a solitary fate.
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. 🙂
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? 🙂 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.
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. 🙂
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. 🙂
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? 🙂
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 © 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.