Sunday, November 25, 2012


I’m trying really hard to be honest when I write this blog. If I said everything the royal family recommended is fantastic, you’d start distrusting me. It can’t all be fantastic. I’m bound to brush up against something I don’t like: the bitter taste of Tiptree orange marmalade, the knock-you-over smell of Brasso metal polish, the residue left behind by a bar of Yardley lavender soap. So far the Royal Warrant products I’ve tried seem to fall into a neat bell curve of things I hate, things I think are fine but may or may not try again, and things I love so much I don’t know how I ever lived without them. It’s time to add something to the left side of that curve. The Jordans & Ryvita Company holds a Royal Warrant from Her Majesty the Queen as “Manufacturers of Crispbreads.”

Back up for a second, you’re probably thinking to yourself. What’s a crispbread? Good question. I think this is just a fancy term for a cracker, although Wikipedia gets slightly more elaborate in its definition.calling it a dry bread or cracker usually made from rye flour. In terms of texture, picture a Triscuit that’s been left out in the open air for...I don’t know...six years or so. We sampled the Limited Edition dark rye cripsbreads here at my house, and none of us could really get on board. The smell knocked me over as soon as I opened the pouch they were in. Musty basement? Mothballs? Mildewed sweater? The rectangular crispbreads laying loose inside were a grayish brown color and looked like something a colony of insects would construct for a home. The taste is something like cardboard at first, but then you get distracted from analyzing the taste as the crispbread breaks down into a million little sandy fragments inside of your mouth and sucks out every last bit of moisture in it.

I tried really hard to make this work. I don’t like writing off something the Queen has recommended. I also didn't want a repeat of the Robinson's barley water misunderstanding. I tried pairing my sandbreads, sorry crispbreads, with interesting toppings like cream cheese and later a thick slice of fresh parmesan cheese, but nothing worked. I couldn’t salvage them.

Why would the Queen want to eat these? Why would anyone want to eat them? I couldn’t figure it out from the company’s website, although I admit some of the flavors featured there – sweet onion, hint of chilli, and Mediterranean herb—did sound a little more appealing than dark rye. I also learned that the Ryvita company began making chocolate crispbreads during World War II, which allowed people to eat chocolate without using ration coupons. I found that sort of endearing. Still, each time I went back to my own package of crispbreads, I was horrified by how terrible they smelled.
Finally I turned to YouTube to search for commercials. Ad after ad mentioned Ryvita’s being low in fat and calories and being an excellent choice if you’re trying to stay slim. Oh. Of course. This is diet food, people. We need to lower our expectations accordingly.

For a couple of weeks I’ve been reading At Home with the Royal Family by Paul James and Peter Russell. The book was published in 1987 and is definitely dated. The cover, for instance, shows a picture of the royal family that features Princess Diana holding an infant Prince William in the front row. Most of the things James and Russell share about the Queen seem to have happened quite awhile ago, but it’s interesting from a historical point of view. And you can’t beat this book in terms of really intimate details about the Queen, e.g. the kind of food she eats when at home. Take this description of her lunches:
“A main course of meat or fish with perhaps a salad, followed by fresh fruit. Although the Queen loves chocolate pudding and adores chocolate mint chip ice cream, she prefers to watch her weight and saves such dishes for special treats or when her family are dining with her.”

How interesting that Queen Elizabeth has immediate access to the world’s finest foods but still finds herself with the same aging metabolism as the rest of us. There are some things you just can’t buy. Just like you and me, the Queen of England sometimes finds herself gnawing on tasteless crackers when she'd must rather be eating something wonderful like mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Where to buy: Amazon and Vitacost both have a large selection.

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