By Mark Hasty
It’s a good thing snack crackers aren’t alive so they can’t get jealous of each other. Otherwise the rivalry between Wheat Thins and Triscuits would be like something out of Real Housewives of Nabisco.
Both have their partisans but I’ve always been on the side of Wheat Thins. There’s something about the crunch, the vague nuttiness, and the way they pair so nicely with cheese. However, I’d never look down my nose at a Triscuit aficionado. Truthfully, there’s usually a box of each in my pantry.
That relationship is about to change. It will soon be 2-1 in favor of Wheat Thins. On Sept. 19th, Smoky BBQ Wheat Thins will be rolled out. I am not typically a big fan of flavored snack crackers, but when Nabisco offered to send us a box for review, I was more than willing to try them. Turns out these crackers are a gamechanger.
I’m old enough that I can remember when potato chips came in three flavors: plain, sour cream and onion (which I have never liked), and “BBQ.” Every company made BBQ chips, but they were all the same. They looked strangely orange and they tasted like a cross between paprika, brown sugar, and onion powder. Any actual meat flavor was purely in your imagination; what BBQ chips tasted like was not barbecue but barbecue sauce.
Because we love barbecue but live in the most barbecue-deprived part of the country (the Upper Midwest), my family has tried anything and everything purporting to taste like real barbecue. Seldom do we buy such products more than once. We are skeptics, even cynics, when it comes to the notion that anything other than actual barbecue can taste like real barbecue.
I will not lie to you: Smoky BBQ Wheat Thins don’t taste like real barbecue either, but they’re (a) delicious and (b) close enough that they can trigger sense memories of good barbecue.
My wife, my oldest daughter and I carefully opened the box we were sent. My wife took the first cracker, ate it, and immediately did this wordless snake-charmer dance. My daughter tasted one, then another, then grabbed a handful for her Wheat Thins-loving friend. She was utterly convinced the crackers wouldn’t last until her next visit.
I took one out and looked at it. Unlike most BBQ products, it didn’t look like something that fell off an Oompa Loompa. It didn’t smell like a fire in in a spice warehouse. Just the faint smell of smoke, red pepper of some sort, and garlic.
I tasted it. Not too salty, not too sweet. Most BBQ products fall into one of those ditches. The flavor matched the smell: first smoky, then peppery, then the garlic. As the cracker dissolved in my mouth the Wheat Thins flavor began to assert itself. I didn’t think Wheat Thins would blend well with the BBQ flavor, and at first it didn’t. But I got used to it.
The real revelation came after I was done eating the cracker. There was a lingering taste on my palate, a little burn from pepper combined with the slight bitterness of smoke and the full, round flavor of garlic. It was like the aftertaste of good barbecue. Without the distraction of the cracker itself it became clear that the Wheat Thins people were on to something good.
I’m at the office as I write this, fully aware that I will probably go home to an empty Smoky BBQ Wheat Thins box. I am also sure this will not be the last time that happens. I think I’ll have to buy two boxes and hide one, because I want these crackers by me when I’m watching games.
(Full disclosure: Obviously, Nabisco supplied SportsandFood.com with a free box of crackers for this review. That was the only consideration we received.)