Half-Baked Blogging

    No, we are not going to pause for any more food trivia.  We are going to discuss postcards again and not get bogged down in side missions involving this or that bit of culinary history.  Those of you who asked about the two Ms in M&Ms will just have to…oh, all right: it stands for mars and Murrie, Murrie being a Hershey executive who…no, we will NOT go into who first put them in cookies.  We’ll  just move from there to Baby Ruth (NOT named for Babe Ruth, by the way) and we will not be discussing postcards.  This is postcard only day: no food history.

    Of course, you can’t have cute little ethnic stereotypes on your postcards without occasionally making fun of a group’s food.  Here is another of the highly popular Dutch children sending his love by comparing his affection for you with his affection for his national foodstuffs.  The line between the Dutch and the Germans (Deutsch) is stretched a little thin here, as sausage was frequently associated with the Germans, generally with sauerkraut.  But coffeecake?

    Well, see, coffee cake is called that because the Germans (or, to be more accurate, probably the Austrians, but people who didn’t bother with the difference between the Deutch and the Deitsch were not going to worry about that) had something they called kaffeekuchen, which pretty much translates as Coffee Cake.  There was no particular recipe for it: it was any kind of cake you ate with your coffee.  It apparently remained something of an exotic novelty in some parts of the country./;  In any case, Frederick S. Dellenbaugh, an explorer who went as a young man on the second trip Major John Powell made down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, recalled a coffee cake adventure during that trip.

    It was Dellenbaugh’s turn to cook while the other men were out exploring, so he decided to surprise everyone by varying their diet with coffeecake.  He had no notion what it was, but he’d heard about it, and figured he could fake a pretty decent one by combining a dozen eggs with a pound of sugar and a pound of flour AND a pound of coffee, and baking the result.  Not only were the guys not especially thrilled by the result, but they also had the nerve to complain about the waste of so many of their supplies on a failed experiment.  You’d think people who go traveling through the Grand Canyon would have more of a spirit of adventure.

    This was one of a large series of very popular postcards telling people about things they didn’t need to do, mainly in some sort of romantic situation.  Among the many there were admonitions that Uneedn’t Worry, Uneedn’t Gamble, Uneedn’t Say yes to Everyone, and so on.  It loses a little of its humor due to the disappearance of one of the greatest all-time American brand names.

    Crackers were an omnipresent food product, used as a bread substitute, or something to break up in soup, or something to spread butter on for a quick snack or something to crumble up in a bowl with milk for a breakfast or a food for someone with a queasy stomach.  Every bakery made crackers, and you would, in the days of unbranded foods, just go to the store with a bag and fill it up with crackers from the cracker barrel.  In the late nineteenth century, Nabisco decided to change all that, less for sanitary reasons than because there was money in them thar barrels.  They came up with a kind of waxed paper sleeve which would hold a row of biscuits and decided to give it a name people would remember.  And the Uneeda Biscuit was born.  No, they did not make them in Oneida or anything like that.  The name meant just what it looks like it means, as they made clear in their slogan “We say it yet lest you forget: Uneeda Biscuit!”  (Why biscuit and not cracker?  The use of words like cookie, biscuit, and bun is a whole nother blog.)

    The first packaged cracker in America, and the first made by Nabisco, it survived world wars, the Depression, the postwar world, and even the merger wars of the 1990s, but finally in 2008 succumbed to the absorption of Nabisco by Kraft, which decided you might need a cracker, but you didn’t need a Uneeda Biscuit.  Although Amazon still lists them, they have been “currently unavailable” for some time now.

    There!  It was nice to get back to postcards, wasn’t it?

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