Does anybody besides me use the term “soda cracker?’

It must be a Southern thing because I have never heard it used north of the Mason-Dixon line. And even here in the Southland, I don’t hear it much anymore.

A soda cracker is a plain, old-fashioned saltine cracker. Here is the official definition from Dr. Google:

A saltine or soda cracker is a thin, usually square, cracker made from white flour, sometimes yeast, and baking soda, with most varieties lightly sprinkled with coarse salt. It has perforations over its surface and a distinctively dry and crisp texture.

When I am in a restaurant and ask for soda crackers, usually with oysters or gumbo, I can get strange looks from a young waitress. She may ask what that means, and I try to explain it. Often, I wind up with Captain’s Wafers or Ritz Crackers or something else that is not soda crackers. It won’t do. When I can remember, I take my pack of soda crackers from home, even to a fancy restaurant.

There are other uses for the term. “White as a soda cracker.” That often refers to someone’s complexion who does not have a suntan. Extremely white. It probably needs a little sun.

In the deep South, the term “cracker” has a similar meaning to hillbilly, redneck, bumpkin, country bumpkin, yokel, hayseed, hick or rube. It can be a term of endearment or derogation. It’s not a racial term because “cracker” and other synonyms are used mainly by upper-class folks, referring to working-class folks.

In our neighbor to the east, there is a widely-used term, “Georgia Cracker.” Their minor league baseball team was “The Georgia Crackers.”

My personal preference for breading is a soda cracker for any of these items:

  • Cheese

  • Peanut butter

  • Dip

  • Sardines

  • Oysters, fried or raw

  • Cream cheese

Other than a soda cracker, some types of crackers will not do with these delicacies.

There are other old-fashioned, Southern uses of soda crackers. They can be crumbled into a breading for fried shrimp, fried oysters, and fried chicken, sometimes mixed with a bit of cornmeal or flour. They can be crumbled into soups, stews and gumbo. I cannot imagine crumbling some other type of cracker.

Maybe, just maybe, I can rekindle the popularity of the old-fashioned soda cracker.

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor.

You can reach him for comments at