The Folklore Food Blog: Sonny


A sailor gave his sonny
Nearly half a pint of money
And sent him out to buy a ton of coal;
But he met a poor old miser
Who told him it were wiser
To bury all his money in a hole.
A sailor gave his sonny
Nearly half a pint of money
And told him he should buy a suit of clothes;
But he saw a pretty maiden
With all kinds of posies laden,
And he gave her all his money for a rose.
Then the sailor gave his sonny
Nearly half a pint of money
To buy a little garden and a house;
But he found him the next day,
In a shop on Yesler Way,
A-buying cheese and crackers for a mouse.
The name “cracker” comes from a fateful day in the spring of 1801 after a hard winter when Josiah Bent accidentally burned a batch of what we now call crackers. Josiah Bent also an avid sailor was experimenting with hardtack, biscuits made of flour and water that would not deteriorate during long sea voyages. He was preparing for a long voyage with Captain Cook and was determined to find a solution to the problem of long-term food storage. When a speeding carriage passing by lost its wheel and crashed into the side of his house. Bent being a calm sort of person, went to investigate the noise. The carriage lay overturned on his lawn, the driver crashed, and the passengers stunned milled about his yard in shock. While performing basic first aid he smelled burning biscuits and ran to his kitchen. Smoke bellowed from his wood stove, clearing the air he pulled the biscuits from the oven and remarked how they crackled as they smoldered. He later discovered the soda cracker that we eat today, also solving the problem of queasy stomachs while at sea.

Kids love crackers, crunchy, toasty and smeared with peanut butter or topped with cheese, hot out of the oven. Listen for the patter of little feet, and voices asking please when the oven door is opened. The cracker has a long history, ancient flatbreads, such as lavash, pita, matzo, flatbrød, and crisp bread are among the types of crackers served throughout the ages. Asian analogs include papadum and senbei. Crackers are the most simple and most cost effective recipe to introduce kids to baking. Kids can measure, mix, knead, roll and cut and perforate. Ever wonder how the cracker got its holes? The holes in crackers are called “docking” holes. The holes are placed in the dough to stop overly large air pockets from forming in the cracker while baking.

3 cups all-purpose flour, or a mix of all-purpose and whole grain flours
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. oil
1 cup water
salt to top

1. Heat the oven to 450°F: Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat to 450°F. Sprinkle a baking sheet lightly with flour and set aside. Mix together the dry ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the oil and water: Add the oil and water to the flour mixture. Stir until a soft, sticky dough is formed. If the dough is too dry add a tsp of water to adjust. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450. Roll out the dough 1/8 thick and cut into desired shapes. Bake the crackers until crisp about 12 minutes.

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