At long last, the world is his (seasoned) oyster (cracker)


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Posted Online: Jan. 02, 2013, 1:40 pm
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By Frank Mullen III
Oh, what a wonderful year this will be.

When my wife and I got home from Hy-Vee yesterday, she pulled a plastic package out of a grocery bag. It looked like urinalysis cup full of broken saltines.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Seasoned oyster crackers," Jo said. "They're popular in the Midwest."

After 10 years, I've become pretty familiar with Midwestern cuisine. No one enjoys fresh sweet corn more than I do, and I'm a fair judge of its freshness and flavor.

I've sampled previously unknown meat products, including bratwurst and pulled pork. (I have no idea what pulled pork is, and I don't want to know. When I was a kid, my big sister told me what went into Jell-O, and I didn't eat dessert again until I was 40.)

But I'd never heard of seasoned oyster crackers. The name reminded me of the dangers of leaving a nine-year-old in the kitchen unsupervised -- you wind up with deep-fried Triscuits and mashed Oreo soup.

But I decided to give the crackers a try. The taste was astounding. Glorious, in fact. I swear that no sooner had the first seasoned oyster cracker touched my tongue than a double-line of French horn players in red velvet tunics marched into the kitchen playing the opening flourish from Monteverdi's "Royal Fanfare in E-flat," and the ceiling opened to reveal a host of angels invoking blessings upon the inventor of seasoned oyster crackers.

It's surprising that these crackers can be so wonderfully enjoyable when oysters themselves are so hideously disgusting. Because some Midwestern readers may never have eaten an oyster, let me briefly describe the experience. Those with weak stomachs are advised to skip the following paragraph.

Long ago, I was dared to eat an oyster in one of those situations that involves honor, pride and beer. I assure you, the oyster in question was not some teensy tidbit buried in a half-pound of baked bread crumbs, but a fresh oyster in its native shell. What I'm saying here, friends, is that you eat fresh oysters alive. Like I said, honor and beer were involved. Thirty years later, I still get a sickly, salty taste in the back of my mouth just thinking about it. The sensation of a squishy gob of living bivalve sliding down your throat is much like that of drinking deeply the contents of a spittoon, if you can imagine that, and I hope you can't.

Yet eating seasoned oyster crackers is a delight. It is joy. When the Lord rained bread on the people of Israel, the crumbs landed in Illinois.

And, somehow, I was the last to find out. Jo proved the enduring popularity of this snack by picking a random church cookbook from the kitchen drawer -- I think it was "Favorite Recipes of the Presbyterian Plowmen Ladies Auxiliary, 1923," which shows just how long the fun has been going on behind my back -- and, sure enough, she found not one, but two recipes for seasoned oyster crackers. They, and the many other recipes I've read online, indicate that dill weed and salad dressing are the key ingredients. Some recipes call specifically for Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.

So, here's my plan for the new year. I'm going to find that hidden valley, rent a moving van and move there with my recliner, a barrel of dill weed and a truckload of oyster crackers.

If they have internet access, I'll be in touch next week. Otherwise, remember me as the guy who was always slow to catch on, but when he did, jumped right to the front of the parade.

Bon appetit.
Frank Mullen III of Aledo is a former Navy band leader.
















 




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  Today is Tuesday, Sept 2, the 245th day of 2014. There are 120 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: It is estimated that 300,000 people attended the recent Democratic convention in Chicago when Gen. George B. McClellan of New Jersey was nominated as a candidate for president of the United States.
1889 — 125 years ago: Alderman Frank Ill, Winslow Howard and Captain J.M. Montgomery returned from Milwaukee, where they attended the national Grand Army of the Republic encampment.
1914 — 100 years ago: Three members of the Rock Island YMCA accepted positions as physical directors of other associations. Albert Cook went to Kewanee, C.D. Curtis to Canton and Willis Woods to Leavenworth, Kan.
1939 — 75 years ago: Former President Herbert Hoover appealed for national support of President F.D. Roosevelt and Congress in every effort to keep the United States out of war.
1964 — 50 years ago: The Rock Island Junior chamber pf Commerce has received answers to about 65 % of the 600 questionnaires mailed out recently in a "Community Attitude Survey" to analyze sentiments of citizens towards their city's various recreational, educational, and civic service programs.
1989 — 25 years ago: The two thunderstorms passing through the Quad Cities last night and early today left some area residents reaching for their flashlights.






(More History)