Every time I see a box of Cracker Jack, fond childhood memories surface. The red, white and blue carton sporting Sailor Jack and his trusty dog, made my heart flutter and happiness surged through my veins. Not only did the container hold a sugary sweet candy coated popcorn studded with peanuts, but there was a prize inside.
Sitting cross-legged on the freshly mowed grass with anticipation, I ripped open the top of the Cracker Jack box. Inhaling deeply, the delightful aroma was intoxicating. Holding the box tightly in one hand, I shoved my fingers deep within, sliding them down the wax-coated side but failed to reach the bottom. When I removed my hand, popcorn residue stuck to my skin. I licked my fingers, closed my eyes, and fought the urge to succumb to the sweet satisfaction my taste buds craved.
I grasped the hem on my shirt, pulling it outward. The material stretched into what I called a Cracker Jack catcher, similar to the grass catcher a lawn mower. Turning the box upside down, I gave it three hearty shakes and the Cracker Jack began to cascade out. Even though I knew the popcorn would stick to my clothing, it did not matter. My quest was focused on the prize hidden at the bottom of the box. Peering inside, Cracker Jack still clung to the bottom, the prize hidden underneath. One more vigorous shake and the remainder of the dark brown popcorn and the coveted prize tumbled out, landing atop the pile of Cracker Jack cradled in my outstretched shirt.
My prize was an inexpensive ring, but to me it resembled a king’s riches. More often than not, Cracker Jack trinkets were a small plastic animal, wristwatch, whistle, puzzle, fortuneteller card, or tattoo transfer.
Slipping my prize onto my ring finger, I was ready to eat my Cracker Jack. Methodically, I embarked on my carefully calculated system. First, I picked out all the peanuts, eating them one at a time. Then I searched for the roundest pieces, chomping them down one by one. Lastly, I ate the stickiest coated popped kernels, enjoying every nibble.
When I was finished with my tasty snack, my jaws ached from excessive chewing, my mouth was dry and my back molars stuck together. Getting up from the grass, I flung my shirt up and down to rid myself of the clinging Cracker Jack crumbs, brushing them off with sticky hands. Then I headed straight for the garden hose, to wash away the stickiness and to get a welcome drink of water before going on to my next adventure.
Homemade mock Cracker Jack light
6 scant cups popped popcorn
1/2 stick margarine
4 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Lunch bag size brown paper bag* lightly sprayed inside with non-stick cooking spray
Place popped popcorn in a brown paper bag lightly sprayed inside with non-stick cooking spray. Microwave 1/2 stick margarine, 4 tablespoons corn syrup, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar in a eight cup microwave safe bowl for two minutes. Stir in baking soda and cook two additional minutes.
Immediately pour mixture over popped popcorn inside bag and fold to close. Scrunch to mix candy coating and popcorn. Microwave for 45 seconds. Scrunch bag again. Your homemade mock Cracker Jack is ready. Enjoy!
*Do not use a printed logo grocery bag – ink may ignite in microwave. Adult supervision required.
Bernadine Chapman-Cruz is a contributing writer for Big Monkey Group Publications assigned to Buzz on Bizz for Lodi Monthly and Manteca Monthly Magazines. Raised in Stockton, she lives in Lodi with her husband, a cat named “L” and dog, “Forest.” She enjoys writing, cooking and dining out.