Animal crackers

I wonder why they call animal crackers "crackers" instead of cookies. We happen to have Australian and English friends, so I know that in other countries they are called animal biscuits, but those folks call cookies biscuits, too. I’ve had tea and biscuits a plenty of times and they serve cookies.

Our daughter and grandson have been visiting for the past week, and in preparation for their visit, I was in charge of making the trip to the grocery store. We have been shopping individually to reduce potential exposure to covid, so I headed out with my list. Among the things I wanted to get in preparation for having a toddler in our house was animal crackers. The store where I was shopping didn’t have the familiar Nabisco Barnum’s Animal Crackers red box with the handle. I think that when I was little the box had a string handle, but by the time our kids came along the handle was cardboard. The store where I shopped did, however, have a large tub of animal crackers. The flavor is familiar, slightly sweet, a bit like a sugar cookie.

I have been impressed with the selection of animals in this particular container. For all of my life, the other brand has featured circus animals. The one exception, for whatever reason, is that I noticed when our children were toddlers that they included a sheep with the camels, gorillas, hippopotamuses, lions, monkeys and rhinoceroses. I grew up in sheep country and I don’t think a sheep in a circus would have been much of a draw. The animal crackers I bought for our grandson have several “non circus” animals including a teddy bear, buffalo, dog, rabbit, horse, pig, lamb and turtle. The giraffes in this container are standing up instead of bending over the way they are depicted in the ones that come from the circus animals box.

I can remember the treat of receiving that box with the handle. I don’t think we got them very often, but they would sometimes show up at Christmas or be given as a treat for an especially long car trip. i loved looking at the animals one by one and laughed at biting off the head of a bear or putting a whole monkey in my mouth. Our grandson shows the same delight even though he received a handful taken from a plastic tub instead of a circus wagon box with a wax paper liner.

I suspect he is getting a few more snacks during his visit to grandma and grandpa’s house. Our children always did, at least on visits to Susan’s parents. Once, when he was small, our son told me that he had two grandmas: a sweater grandma and a cookie grandma. My mother, who was constantly knitting, was the sweater grandma. I was pleased that he had a compliment and a happy memory of both grandmas. My maternal grandmother died before I was born, so I grew up with only one grandma and she was the full-bore meat and potatoes, put a big dinner on the table grandma. She also gave hugs that made you wonder if you might smother being so completely wrapped up in her arms. My siblings and I and all of our cousins did, however, survive all of those hugs and dinners that probably would make my cardiologist squirm.

Our grandson has definitely raised the energy level in our house. He doesn’t appear to be in need of more sweets in order to be able to run and jump and climb and play hide and seek with grandpa. In almost every venture from kicking the soccer ball in the back yard to rolling a toy car across the floor, he has more stamina than I. I don’t know how dizzy he would get if I allowed him to spin in my office chair as much as he wanted. I just know that if he sits on my lap and we spin together, he is still asking for more when I have definitely had enough. His mother and grandmother have been keeping a list of all of the words he says clearly. One of those words is “again!” If I pick him up and hold him over my head, he says, “again!” When I boosted him so he could peek over the divider between the kitchen and the living room at his grandma he said, “again!” When I tire of sitting in the rocking chair with my legs straight out so he can grab them and jump up and down, he calls out “Again!”

I’m starting to think that grandpa needs the animal crackers more than the grandson. The advantage of purchasing them in a large tub is that I can sneak a few whenever I want. I’ve also eaten more goldfish crackers and teddy grahams than is normally in my diet. We even have a box of bunny grahams as a contrast to teddy grahams. I can get a good giggle out of my grandson by chomping off the head of a camel when we eat animal crackers together.

I suppose that my world has shrunk a bit since I have retired. I am no longer in the loop with the latest news from the sheriff’s office. I’m not the first one to get a call when there is an illness or a death in the community. I sometimes just ignore the news of politics or celebrities for a whole day. I’m not a recluse or hermit, but I am enjoying not being in charge. I’m fully entertained by animal crackers and playing with my grandchildren. I haven’t gotten to the place where I carry hard candy in my pockets all of the time, but the other day I did find a few cat treats in my pocket. I’ve been making friends with the barn cats at our son’s farm.

I know that they make frosted animal crackers, but they just aren’t the same. Once you coat the animal with frosting, they all look pretty much alike. I’ll leave the frosted ones at the store. I am thinking, however, that the others might become a staple, like four and sugar and rice and noodles - a food deserving of its own canister in the pantry.

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