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The History of Oyster Crackers

There is some debate over who invented oyster crackers. One version of the story credits a baker named Adam Exton with creating them in his New Jersey bakery, The Exton Cracker Bakery, back in 1847. However, the Westminster Cracker Company refutes this story and claims that they developed oyster crackers in 1828. Where the name of these little crackers came from is also a mystery. One theory holds that they were specifically created to accompany oyster stew, which was popular and surprisingly affordable in the 1800s. (Oysters weren’t yet a delicacy and were actually overfished and thus inexpensive at the time). Some people believe that the crackers got their name from their association with the dish. Other food historians believe that oyster crackers got their name because of their slight resemblance to an oyster shell. Still others believe that both stories could be true, and it’s certainly possible that oyster crackers were originally created to garnish oyster stew and began to resemble the shape of oysters over time. It’s thought that once oyster stew lost its popularity, oyster crackers kept their association with seafood stews and chowders because of their durability. They don’t break down easily and have therefore remained a popular and practical way to add crunch and saltiness to a dish. Today, they are most strongly associated with New England clam chowder, but they’re also enjoyed in other places in the United States. For example, Ohioans often enjoy their oyster crackers with hot sauce. Some people even make their own from scratch, although store-bought oyster crackers remain the most popular type today.

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