Monday, October 28, 2013

Cracker Jacks with Kailey

So let's root, root, root for the Red Sox...

I have mentioned before that I'm from New England, so it probably shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who pays attention to sports at all to know that I probably at least distantly care about the World Series. To be honest, while I haven't been a religious follower of baseball since the Sox traded my favorite player back in 2004, I've been a member of the Church of Boston since infancy. My dad seriously considered naming me "Wade" if I was a boy after the Red Sox's then third baseman Wade Boggs, and apparently, the first baseball game I ever watched as an infant was a Red Sox versus Yankees game, and I started crying once the Yankees came out on the field.

There was a lot of debate over what I should make in honor of the Red Sox making it to the World Series for the third time in my lifetime, and although we talked about nachos and clam chowder and trying to recreate the sausage sandwiches my dad like getting when we're at Fenway, eventually, we decided to go with Cracker Jacks.

There is a popular myth that baseball wasn't invented until the American Civil War, and that Abner Doubleday was the man responsible for it. This is - as I said - a myth and nothing more, although baseball's growing national popularity and the founding of more permanent baseball clubs definitely has the Civil War to thank. The first reference to the game is actually from 1791. The first team to play under modern rules was the New York Knickerbockers, which was founded in 1845 and played their first game in 1846. Thanks to the Civil War - where soldiers would often play baseball during their free time - the sport's popularity grew, and people began to seriously attempt professionalizing the sport as early as 1866. The National League (which has fifteen teams, including the New York Mets, the St. Loius Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs) was founded in 1876, while the American League (which also has fifteen teams, including the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers) started as a minor league before becoming national in 1901. Because professional baseball was a segregated sport before the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson in 1947, there were separate pro teams for those of non-white ethnicity, known both broadly and more specifically to reference several successful non-white professional leagues in 1920 as the Negro Leagues.

The Boston Red Sox were technically established in 1901, but did not adopt an official nickname until 1908. Until then, the American League Boston team was just known as the Americans. Although the Red Sox has always been home to a number of phenomenal baseball players, and won the 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918 World Series titles, they had not won a Series since trading Babe Ruth in 1919 to their rivals the New York Yankees. Although for most of their existence they have not had an official mascot, Wally the Green Monster (named after the famous wall in Fenway's outfield) was introduced in April of 1997, and has been somewhat reluctantly embraced by the Fenway Faithful.

I had the misfortune of being born during that dry spell, although honestly, I don't have a right to complain compared to someone like my dad or grandfathers, all three of whom are die hard Red Sox fans. Still, September and October were really hard months for me growing up. Between living sort of close to New York City and the fact that the Yankees had enjoyed a nearly uncontested dominance in the post season meant that I was literally one of two Red Sox fans in my elementary and middle schools. If there were more than that, they kept quiet about it, because the Yankees fans made sure to make your life a nightmare if you even dared coming to school wearing a Red Sox t-shirt. I had the misfortune of sharing a particular rivalry with one of my classmates, which would have been bad enough if he was just a Yankee fan, but unfortunately, he was a crazy fan of Derek Jeter, and I was a crazy fan of Nomar Garciaparra.

(Seriously, I don't get passionate about much when it comes to sports, but if you say anything bad about Nomar, we will have a Discussion.)

Winning in 2004 was like an exorcism, and those four days in October were some of the most exciting I've ever lived through, and I'm honestly really not that into sports. It almost made me start to forgive them for stabbing me in the back and trading Nomar a couple months before the series started. They went on to win the series in 2007, and after preforming terribly last year, they're up against the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

To make the Cracker Jacks, we used one of my mom's best friend's recipes for caramel corn, which also includes peanuts to make it more authentically cracker jacks. I got to use our air popcorn maker for the first time tonight, and I'm not sure I'm a fan. It could do with an on/off switch, instead of just powering up the second you plug it in.

I've never made caramel before, and I was kind of surprised by how easy it was. I mean, it's something I can see going horribly wrong pretty easily if you're not watching it, but it cooked pretty quickly and was ready to dump on the popcorn in maybe fifteen minutes.

Dumping it over the popcorn and really getting it all mixed in was a little difficult though. The caramel started seizing up and getting stuck to the bottom of the bowl, which made it hard to get it on the popcorn that wasn't down there.

We flattened it out with spatulas and our (clean!) hands before incorporating some peanuts. No one in my house is that much of a fan of peanuts on caramel corn, but since we were going for Cracker Jacks, we couldn't just leave them out entirely.

We baked two trays worth in the oven for an hour, and then they were good to go!

As you can see in the second picture above this, we probably should have put parchment paper on the baking sheets, because some of the caramel got really, really stuck on it. It took a while to remove all of it from the sheets, but once we did, we were all excited to try it!

Now, I mostly picked Kailey to host this post because I wanted an opportunity to stick someone in the Red Sox shirt, and none of my other dolls are from Massachusetts anyway. (Not that Kailey is either; she's from California, and probably doesn't care that much about baseball considering her book focused more on bogey boarding and saving the ocean.) In reality, this post probably should have been hosted by Rebecca or Samantha, as Cracker Jacks were first produced in 1896, and are widely considered to be America's first junk food. In 1908, the treat was included in the lyrics of the popular song Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and has forevermore been linked to baseball. It's so iconic and popular that in 2004, when the New York Yankees tried to switch out Cracker Jacks with a similar but decidedly different treat, they were forced to almost immediately change back after extreme public outcry.

Unfortunately, as both Rebecca and Samantha are from New York and thus probably would be Yankees fans (Rebecca's older brother is, at least), I still decided to give this post to Kailey. They still got to reap the benefits of my cooking, though!

Honestly, I like to think that I won't be too disappointed if the Sox don't win the Series. Nothing is ever going to top winning in 2004, especially because that hideously annoying "1918" chant is finally obsolete, but whenever I'm watching the games, I do get caught up in that old energy and want to see them win. If nothing else, at least I'll get the TV to my self again past midnight!

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