Home Eats Sweeter than Honey: A Treatise on the Graham Cracker

Sweeter than Honey: A Treatise on the Graham Cracker

by Benjamin Sheng

Ever since the dawn of civilization, humans have striven to find the perfect snack. From prehistoric figs to delicate French pastries, we have at last found it in the form of Nabisco Honey Maid Graham Crackers. Made with real honey, they are versatile, quintessential, and most importantly, simply delicious. The graham cracker that we know today evolved from a health food to an everyday snack in just under a century. How did this incredible journey take place?

Bon Appétit!

Meet the evangelical minister Sylvester Graham. He, in addition to being a vegetarian (like the only one of his day), was such a large advocate for diets and healthy eating that if Noom had been around back then, he would have been its CEO. Most tragically, no one else cared about healthy eating and most certainly no one, no matter how high of a respect they held for their minister, considered giving up their tasty barbeque or their refreshing cocktails except for a few who joined the “Grahamite” club, where eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and high fiber foods was mandatory (they were then promptly laughed out of town for their ridiculous name).

Minister Graham had to make sure that his shiny new Grahamites, like chicks without a mother hen to guide them, wouldn’t stray back to their old ways of indulging in unhealthy food. He thought for a while, and then, in 1829, came up with the brilliant idea of creating a bland, unpleasant cracker made from graham flour (a type of coarsely ground flour) that would supposedly curb people’s appetites for eating rich, fatty foods (and, well, other things). And just like that, the Graham cracker was born.

It would have been a culinary insult to keep those newly-created crackers, which had so much potential, as an overeating preventative measure. Fortunately, a large number of bakeries producing a large number of graham crackers (Why? Just why? Nobody wants to eat them) scattered across the United States decided to band together and form the National Biscuit Company, or what we know today as Nabisco. At last, much to the consternation of Graham and the delight of hungry citizens, they started tweaking the recipe into the graham cracker we know today. Graham crackers became Sugar Honey Grahams in 1925 and then in 1976, Honey Maid, the moniker that we all undoubtedly know today.

Never again will graham crackers be a health food. Never again will they be tasteless. And most importantly, never again will they be reluctantly bought by unwilling dieters. Instead, people of all ages now enjoy them in countless ways, from an afternoon snack spread with peanut butter to incorporating them into a buttery pie crust. Even Graham crackers by themselves are amazing – the subtle crunch, the 

tantalizing flavor, the beautiful design. Countless recipes call for graham crackers to be used as the crust for pie or cheesecake, the base for sheet pan desserts or an icebox cake, the “bread” of a sandwich, or ice cream topper. More radical usage of the graham cracker is also present in the culinary world. It can be crumbled as a topping to foie gras or chicken (or even indulgent barbeque), and can be used as a dipper for both savory and sweet sauces. One New York City restaurant even serves salty French fries topped with Graham cracker pieces, marshmallows, and chocolate, however unconventional, as a side dish.

Talking about graham crackers without mentioning s’mores would be a crime akin to heresy in the Middle Ages. S’mores, supposedly invented by the Girl Scouts in 1927, represent the ultimate form of graham crackers, the final evolution. No summer camping trip, or summer for that matter, would be complete without a picturesque night by a blazing bonfire, roasting marshmallows on sticks while laughing with your friends, boxes of graham crackers and bars of 

chocolate by your side. S’mores have become such a mainstream of popular culture that they are perhaps the first thing you think of when anyone mentions “Graham cracker”. The mere idea of a pleasantly sticky, warm, toasty marshmallow sandwiched between softening chocolate and crunchy crackers is enough to make anyone’s mouth water.

The humble Graham cracker grew from an insipid piece of cardboard to the classic snack that we know today. It is used in so many aspects of cooking and is essential to camping. It is perhaps even the most recognizable snack food and can be found in kitchens all around the world. In 2021, almost 500 million dollars were spent in the United States on these iconic crackers. Graham crackers today are nowhere near as healthy as they were back in the day, but hey, at least low-fat versions were introduced and the number of whole grains in each serving were recently doubled. Overall, these crackers have experienced such a huge success that would only have been possible with the overflowing potential of the original cracker. Graham (although perhaps unwillingly) would be proud.


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