Downtime

Cracker Battle

Why Wheat Thins vs. Triscuits is such an irresistible topic to debate.

Photo illustration: a box of Triscuits and a box of Wheat Thins. Photo illustration by Slate.
Photo illustration by Slate.

Early on Wednesday afternoon, for reasons that are hard to explain, Slate snapped in half like … well, like a thin, grain-based food. We’ve had heated internal debates before—about, for example, the relative hotness of Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau—but we have never argued quite like this. At the heart of our fierce battle was an eternal question: Wheat Thins or Triscuits?

The conversation spread like a cold in the viral microclimate of a poorly ventilated preschool: Before long, we learned, the New York Times was having the same argument.

The Gray Lady’s staff, I am reliably told, came down on the side of Wheat Thins, as did the official Twitter accounts of Retro Report and Ars Technica editor Annalee Newitz:

As the afternoon wore on, even the staff of EMILY’s List joined in:

For a brief moment, everyone was ready to argue about the same dumb thing as we girded ourselves for battle.

Here and there decisive sallies rattled the partisans of one side or another, but most battles seemed destined to come to, uh, a stalemate. When Slate posted a poll to Twitter, readers were divided.

Screenshot from Jan. 24 by Slate staff member with vote redacted for objectivity, but honestly I only eat Triscuits to not feel guilty about eating a block of cheese with nothing but my bare hands.
Screenshot from Jan. 24 by Slate staff member with vote redacted for objectivity, but honestly I only eat Triscuits to not feel guilty about eating a block of cheese with nothing but my bare hands.
Slate

There are some, of course, who suggest that either option is acceptable. They are, I would argue, the Triscuits of people. But here’s the thing: I may not agree with you if you like garbage crackers, but I respect your passion because I share it.

All of this over crackers! Crackers, a food designed, at best, to be a vehicle for other, more delicious foods. The great Wheat Thins vs. Triscuits conflict isn’t exactly new. Bodybuilders and nutrition fanatics have parsed their relative merits in minute detail. At times, astute observers have weighed in for one side or the other, as Silvia Killingsworth once did. The question isn’t new, but neither has it been resolved. So what is it, exactly, about the Cracker Wars that makes this topic so irresistible to debate?

There’s something almost blissful about the total meaninglessness of the Wheat Thins vs. Triscuits dispute. It is simply impossible to extrapolate anything about one’s tastes or personality from which cracker they prefer. If you are Team Macron in the Trudeau vs. Macron Divide, one might reasonably infer some ideas about, say, your Francophilia or penchant for men of diminutive statures. Not so with Wheat Thins or Triscuits. Especially at a moment when our country is genuinely divided—and sure, maybe also particularly in an industry where people are obliged to reckon with that division every day—the Cracker Wars come to us like a miraculous artifact from those days when every morning didn’t seem to bring a new international crisis, every evening a shocking news dump. This is an argument that we can have just because it’s sometimes fun to fight about something that has absolutely no meaningful consequences at all. Crackers—even those that are sugary and those loaded with salt—are bland by nature. This is why we eat them. And also, perhaps, why it’s a pleasure to bicker over biscuits right now.

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Jacob Brogan writes for Slate about technology and culture.