Why Do High WASPs Eat Wheat Thins For Lunch?


via 6bittersweets

At the top of the list of assumed WASP traits sits our presumed diet, replete with mayonnaise, gin, and all other forms of beige and clear foodstuffs. Go poke around your popular culture venue of choice, look up WASPs, and you’ll see. I’ll wait, you look.

Done? Need help finding the kind of discourse I’m thinking of? Here.

Well then.

Perhaps we have, traditionally, eaten less spicy food. Perhaps my elderly cousin did, once, tell me that New Mexico was a bit too “ranchero” for him. But let me put forth a conflicting theory, if you permit. Whatever you read about our food choices reflecting a lack of passion is absolutely and thoroughly wrong.

Consider the Wheat Thin.

We will ignore any crunch calls.

In the High WASP bible Cheerful Money, Tad Friends confirms the Wheat Thin’s natural habitat. Native to the deep thickets of High WASP family gatherings, most prevalent, of course, in the cocktail hour. Occasionally seen at lunch.

via Google books, here, and so worth a read.

Other observers make rough attempts at deconstructing WASPs’ Wheat Thins relationship . While Mr. Chatterbox, a columnist for Sarasota Magazine is correct in pointing out that Stoned Wheat Thins have replaced Nabisco, here and there, mostly people get it wrong. These guys just don’t understand. For example, High WASPs find Ritz Crackers too decadent. After all, they break without discipline, fairly oozing fat as they cover your chin with flakes.

Nabisco has done its own part to obscure the truth about Wheat Thins. If you trace the evolution of the brand, you see the sad state of affairs. Nabisco now offers so MANY varieties that the construct, “Wheat Thin,” has little meaning any more. The deadly drug of proliferation.

But let us return to the critical issue. Are these crackers bland? In some context, perhaps. In my culture, not at all.

For High WASPs of a certain generation, the secret, sweet, malted taste of Wheat Thins, spattered with salt, was a guilty, sensual pleasure. Anything sensual is guilty in this culture, of course, except heavy breathing from the exertion of a brisk walk. It’s also true that crackers from a box, after decades of food served on platters, felt daring, indulgent. How thrilling! We’re living without servants, we’re eating with our fingers, we’re moving to California.

I would posit that many among us are not bloodless, not without passion. Only, we are overwhelmed by surges of feeling at the smallest of stimuli. It’s always risky to generalize the feelings behind another culture’s habits.

Perhaps each culture has their own secret Wheat Thins. Do we ridicule lovers of xiao long bao? Smoked salmon? Brie. I thought not. Let us now celebrate the Wheat Thin by making our own. The blog, 6bittersweets, offers up this recipe. Reclaim that birthright. Wrest Wheat Thins from the over-marketing hands of their creators and find the salty, malted heart of darkness once again.

Eaten slowly, with a long time on the tongue.

With thanks to the reader who wrote me, saying she now understood her husband’s family better, in all their “Wheat Thins for lunch” glory.

43 Comments

  • 09/01/11
    7:26 am

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    Poppy Buxom said...

    I’ve already said it on twitter, but I think you nailed it. Wheat Thins are as sweet as cookies, but then have that sprinkle of saltiness. It’s like they have a secret life–the prim cracker with its voluptuous buttery sweetness. They’re the Grace Kelly of crackers.

  • 09/01/11
    7:29 am

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    The Preppy Princess said...

    Oh Miss Privilege, as soon as I saw the title of the post I cackled, scared The Consort half to death. Everything you state is true, perhaps even more so in this era, we do cling to sure things amid a maelstrom of too many new things. I remember clearly that passage in Tad Friends’ book, so glad you included it.

    The downside of all this? I have none in the house and now have an intense craving for them. Again, I absolve myself of culpability and point the fickle finger of blame directly west. Heh,heh,heh.
    tp

  • 09/01/11
    7:31 am

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    sarah g said...

    god, i love wheat thins. they got me through so many exam periods in college. deliciousness!

  • 09/01/11
    7:35 am

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    Karena said...

    Lisa,

    I love Wheat thins and can eat them forever, I have never tired of them and with a bit of cheese a little dip. it certainly makes a meal for me!!

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

  • 09/01/11
    7:36 am

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    Jan said...

    Ah. Well, at least you encourage people to make them from scratch. :-)

  • 09/01/11
    7:39 am

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    valentine said...

    I can’t begin to count the Wheat Thins with cheddar cheese I have eaten in my lifetime!

  • 09/01/11
    7:59 am

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    Stephanie said...

    I adore Wheat Thins. But my grandmother used to broil Triscuits with squares of cheddar on top for a minute or two and those are prob my favorite.

    Check this out:

    Bacon. Crackers. But not what you think. This was in a recent Garden & Gun issue.

    http://theglobalherald.com/recipe-bacon-crackers-martha-hall-foose/13999/

    I mean. Really. (yum)

  • 09/01/11
    8:07 am

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    Momatude said...

    That recipe looks like it would be much better than the dip I grew up looking at— white shredded cheese mixed with mayo and heated- this to be spread on crackers. If Mom was walking on the wild side she added a bit of parsley and if a bit tipsy- it was ORANGE shredded chesse.

  • 09/01/11
    8:27 am

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    WorthyStyle said...

    Ha! LOVE this post. Did you know 6 Bittersweets is run by a woman I have known half my life and has dated my cousin for years? Smalllll world!

    And yes, Cheerful Money is such a good cross reference for such things:)

  • 09/01/11
    8:30 am

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    hostessofthehumblebungalow said...

    Hmm…
    food for thought.

  • 09/01/11
    8:33 am

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    Mary anne said...

    Um, we had Wheat Thins and cheddar for lunch yesterday. Didn’t realize that might be considered odd by some

  • 09/01/11
    8:34 am

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    Patsy said...

    We are a boxed cracker clan. I didn’t even know you could MAKE crackers!

    My father eats cold water crackers, which are your dentist’s best friend: http://stores.homestead.com/bentscookiefactory/Detail.bok?no=2

  • 09/01/11
    8:58 am

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    Jeanne @ Collage of LIfe said...

    Alas…it has been years since I have tasted the savoury Wheat Thins. They have not graced the supermarket shelves of Australia, New Zealand and England. When I am back in the USA they are of one of the first things to go in the supermarket cart. :) Now that I have the recipe…my life knows no bounds!

    This was a trip down memory lane for me…the memories of those summertime G&T’s are lingering too… Perfect!

    Thank you!

    Jeanne xxx

  • 09/01/11
    9:02 am

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    Lara of Long Beach said...

    O, Best Blogger! How did you know I’ve been wanting to make my own crackers? Asiago cheese atop a crispy morsal…..the perfect snack. Lately, I’ve been eschewing processed foods and making everything at home. Better flavor, better for you. Yum….can’t wait!

  • 09/01/11
    9:43 am

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    Tabitha said...

    Mayo, really? I can’t tell you how much of that we go through in a month,it’s rather shocking.
    And you know, we’d eat it on wheat thins alone.

  • 09/01/11
    10:30 am

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    rb said...

    Cute! I love wheat thins, despite being from a rural, not-WASP upbrining, but I do confess to liking one of the bastardizations – the rosemary flavor.

    I like the excerpt from the book. In 1982, leaving for college, I saved my part-time JCPenney salary and bought two Pappagallo dresses from a small boutique in the tiny downtown area of my hometown. I wore them for sorority rush and any other occasion requiring a dress, until the ‘freshman 10′ rendered them obsolete. I didn’t know I was being so WASPY!

    Those two dresses are so memorable to me I could sketch them quite accurately today.

  • 09/01/11
    10:33 am

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    Marcy Simmons said...

    What a great read this morning! Laughed out loud.

    Wheat Thins, left to savor on the tongue are my life long addiction. They’re good enough to eat plain jane, so I guess that makes me a true High WASP, eating with my fingers indeed!

    Once a week we tend to have a cracker based dinner around here-bolstered with cheeses,spreads and fruit- picnic style. It is most relaxing. I will check out the recipe–that will certainly class things up a bit!

    Ritz crackers never were my cuppa tea. Loved your description of the fat oozing out of those crumby horrors. And to think that you can make an apple pie with them!

    Haha!

  • 09/01/11
    10:33 am

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    metscan said...

    Totally new stuff for me. Naturally. We eat rye crisp bread, healthy but addictive.

  • 09/01/11
    11:33 am

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    Susan Tiner said...

    You are so funny. Now that you live in California and you’ve obviously been eating with your fingers, you might try tortillas. They’re really good!

  • 09/01/11
    11:55 am

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    Ally Bean said...

    You have made my day with this post. So true.

    My mother, a middle-class, midwestern WASP of “that” generation, couldn’t go a day without eating a few Wheat Thins. Like you say, she thought that Ritz crackers were for special occasions only.

    But Wheat Thins were small, tasty & never got stale. By eating a few of them she never got fat nor did she waste money. Two of her abiding principles in life.

  • 09/01/11
    12:14 pm

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    Mary said...

    Yes, right. My parents had a little wooden tray of wheat thins with cheddar with their cocktails before dinner. As children we were allowed one, or maybe two. What was on the tray was the limit – there was no going back for more. It turns out this applies to adults too. This came as a shock to my husband (midwestern, Jewish, as alien in the world of my parents as a Martian), who came from a family where force-feeding was the norm.

  • 09/01/11
    1:44 pm

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    Sartre said...

    I think the stereotype is an outdated one, anyway. The sea changes in the food culture that have occurred over the past 30 years have hit the WASP community just as much as everyone else, and it would be an odd “high WASP” family indeed that did not have its favorite Thai restaurant, Indian restaurant, Japanese restaurant, etc.

  • 09/01/11
    3:09 pm

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    Duchesse said...

    This is a great post! Would you be willing to say, are Triscuits declasée? Be honest, now.

    Though they were staples among the Midwestern WASPS I grew up among, I realize they may have an image problem.

    I must make some rumaki… soon.

  • 09/01/11
    3:58 pm

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    RoseAG said...

    WASP culture has endowed the world with many notable elements, but food is not at the top of the list.

  • 09/01/11
    7:24 pm

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    une femme said...

    Wheat Thins are like crack to me.

  • 09/01/11
    10:18 pm

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    Parnassus said...

    From a recent trip to Ohio I brought back a box of Wheat Thins, and they have changed for the worse–too sweet, and they are oily and hard without being friable. Luckily, cheese crackers are still good, as was a box of Post Shredded Wheat. Taiwan is Food Central, but there are still some American snacks I miss, although not Wheat Thins anymore.

  • 09/02/11
    12:54 am

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    ann said...

    lovely writing. thank you.

  • 09/02/11
    7:04 am

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    Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita said...

    you never fail to entertain us!

  • 09/02/11
    8:04 am

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    Mouse said...

    Hahahhahaha I absolutely love this! Although doesn’t the heavy breathing after a brisk walk remind WASPs of SEX, bringing back the guilt again? :)

    My friend once threw a fundraiser at the Kennedy compound on Cape Cod, and apparently Ethel Kennedy requires that all events include her signature appetizer, which involved fried Triscuits. I forget what went on top. But I thought it relevant, even if the Kennedys are WASCs. xo

  • 09/02/11
    10:54 am

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    HijabEng said...

    This might be one of my favorite posts, love it.

  • 09/02/11
    12:04 pm

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    Jessica said...

    A box of Wheat Thins barely makes it into the house unopened from the store. And certainly won’t last more than 24 hours before it’s contents are completely demolished. I brought home fat-free by accident once. I will never do that again.

    The broiled Triscuits w the cheddar cheese on top. To. Die. For!!!!!

    My mother served everything on Melba toast.

  • 09/02/11
    12:05 pm

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    Jessica said...

    Oh… and does anyone else miss Papagallo terribly???

  • 09/02/11
    9:21 pm

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    Mags said...

    Well done !! Deeee-Lish !

  • 09/03/11
    2:45 am

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    Sarah (Semi Expat) said...

    Have to say I was VERY partial to a wheat thin or two when I lived in USA. Haven’t found them anywhere else more’s the pity. x

  • 09/03/11
    2:49 am

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    Reggie Darling said...

    Wheat Thins were a staple in my house growing up, along with Triscuits, and each have a Proustian quality to me whenever I come across them. I haven’t bought either for decades, having succumbed to a combination of food snobbery and the proliferation of so many wonderful alternatives. But I eat them with a guilty pleasure that borders on glee whenever I come across them when visiting others. I can’t give up Bremner Wafers or Stoned Wheat crackers, though. Ritz crackers? Too “lower orders” (as MD used to say) for words! Reggie

  • 09/04/11
    2:31 am

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    mary jo said...

    This is such a great post Lisa, I am a life-long wheat thins addict, although never stopped to consider why I love the taste so much, so thank you for the insight! Thought I had food poisoning and I have guests for the weekend – served crackers and cheese for dinner–everyone was surprisingly happy {wine does not hurt at such times}.

    mary jo

  • 09/04/11
    10:09 am

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    pigtown*design said...

    when my nephew came from the states to visit me in wales, i requested a few things: wheat thins, old bay seasoning and chocolate chips, all of which were non-existant in the wilds of wales.

  • 09/04/11
    7:58 pm

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    Lisa said...

    Poppy – You nailed it. The Grace Kelly of crackers indeed.

    TPP – I’ve been staving off cravings ever since I started writing this post. But the hallmark of our culture is delayed gratification. Isn’t that true?

    sarah g – Ha!

    Karena – With cheddar!

    Jan – I know, all sorts of nasties in the commercial versions. I suppose you’d like them better if we could make them all out of meat:).

    Valentine – Swiss just wouldn’t do it, would it?

  • 09/04/11
    7:58 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Stephanie – Those look delicious. I love the prose. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until the bacon constricts the center of each cracker….

    Momatude – Aaaah! Orange cheese! Walking on the REALLY wild side:).

    WorthyStyle – You know her? Very small world:).

    hostess – Ha!

    Mary anne – Hehe. Not odd. Quite the norm:).

    Patsy – Recreational teeth cracking?

  • 09/04/11
    7:58 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Jeanne – Always happy to provide nostalgia:).

    Lara – Oh Reader Of Mine! I live to serve. Seriously:).

    Tabitha – Ha! I confess, I don’t like mayonnaise. I feel my culture card may be rescinded soon.

    rb – Well, rosemary rescues most everything…

    Marcy – Well thank you! And you are right. If I make apple pie, Ritz Crackers are no where to be seen:). I am kind of intrigued by making my own crackers though.

    Mette – My Swedish stepfather lives for knecke brod. I am not sure of the spelling, but that’s how he says it.

  • 09/04/11
    7:58 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Susan – I love tortillas:). Happy to make you laugh.

    Ally – My pleasure. It’s the eating only a few bit that’s so dang WASP:).

    Mary – Yes. The limits. The delayed gratification. All in a cracker. My grandmother had a special tray too, and little wooden pigs for salt and pepper.

    Sartre – Yes. Certainly the stereotype is outdated. I’m hoping to do my part to update it:).

    Duchesse – Thank you. No, not declasse. Just, um, rural and not terribly interesting:). Don’t make me talk like that again, OK?

    RoseAG – Perhaps no. However, I do appreciate our usual willingness to try food from other cultures. And I wonder, what is Alice Waters’ background?

  • 09/04/11
    7:59 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Une Femme – Ha! I haven’t had a box in the house in years. I suspect I’d have the same reaction.

    Parnassus – Oh no! Perhaps we will have to make our own, even here.

    Ann – Thank you so much.

    Stephanie – My sincere pleasure.

    Mouse – Ah, we are allowed to like sex, just not to talk about it. And anything Kennedy is relevant. They studied us. Well.

    Hijab – Thank you so much.

  • 09/04/11
    7:59 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Jessica – Fat free anything is an abomination. And while I never did understand Melba Toast, I spend some time in the vicinity of Papagallo.

    Mags – Thank you dee-ah!

    Sarah – More’s the pity indeed:).

    Reggie – That’s how we sin, we High WASPs. In the houses of others. And I cannot believe MD had the audacity to say lower orders. What a character!

    Mary Jo – Thank you very much. And I imagine your wheat thins made everyone feel like kids again, which is also fun.

    Meg – Chocolate chips! I too had those sent to me in England, in 1979, so I could make cookies for my office.

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