Survival Biscuits, 47 Years Later
The true measure of a great host is not what she or he serves you or how they present it, but what the host or hostess drags out of the basement or attic and open before their guests’ eyes. The day after the most fantastic New England wedding near Worcester, Massachusetts, family and friends descended for another day of mirth and merriment. Lemonade (cinnamon rose lemonade, I must say--our lovely hostess made Martha Stewart look like a hillbilly) flowed, stories exchanged, laughter echoed, and soccer was played. Then things got crazy--we are of Armenian heritage, after all. Our fabulous hostess decided it was time to open a 47 year old can of Survival Biscuits, a proud product of the now-defunct Educator Biscuit Company of Lowell, Massachusetts. The iconic New England company eventually became part of Nabisco, but these enormous cans, which were left behind by a previous owner, survived the Cold War, Y2K, New Coke, and the disputed 2000 presidential election. The Civil Defense, All Purpose, can of treats promised a minimum of 89 biscuits per pound with a minimum 1513 per can. The 17 pound beast was a beauty and boasted resilience, strength, and calories. The first issue was whether we should open the can at all, but after an iPhone check revealed the going price was about $15 on eBay, our hostess decided to sacrifice one for afternoon entertainment. All of us were excited about what could have happened to the wheat flour, sugar, vegetable shortening, corn flour, corn sugar, soy flour, salt, leavening, and lecithin. After all, when these crackers were entombed, Lyndon Johnson was President, Jackie still hadn’t discovered O, California had its finances in order, and the Beatles were still together. The second issue was how to get the darned thing open. Designers of products that were supposed to outlast nuclear war unfortunately did not much thought into how to open their goods. A super committee of highly skilled relatives decided a manual can opener was the best way to go pry the canister open--and so the executive decision was made to open the can from the bottom so that they could use the old can for a door stop, bar stool, or a jail for a wayward Barbie doll. Finally that bottom of that lid was peeled back, and alas, the rest of the crackers’ ingredients (BHA, propyl gallate, and citric acid) were not enough to save the 17 pounds of crackers. The oppressively musty smell that permeated the most beautiful porch in Worcester was not a happy one. A few brave, or mindless, guinea pigs dared to sample the crackers. The reaction, displayed in the very bottom photo, says it all.