When guests enjoy a steam bowl of clam chowder or oyster stew, it’s often accompanied by a small package of oyster crackers. Inside that humble package is a little known story of one culinary entrepreneur who changed the way oysters and clams are enjoyed to this day.
Prior to 1847, jaw-breaking hardtack, known as pilot bread, was the only cracker commercially available in the U.S. Its hardness was due to the need to roll and re-roll the cracker dough to crush any air pockets that might develop in the raising dough.
Enter Adam Exton, a creative baker living in Trenton, New Jersey, recently emigrated from England. He decided to tackle ‘the bubble’ problem by invented a machine that both rolled and ‘docked’ or pricked the pastry dough thereby solving the pesky bubble problem.
Because his tiny crackers looked like small oyster shells, the phrase “oyster crackers” was soon adopted by enthusiastic New England diners. Sadly his failure to patent his recipe soon resulted in many competitors.
Today the Westminster Cracker Company of Rutland, Vermont is the leading producers of oyster crackers, often served with Taylor Shellfish. Satisfied diners from coast to coast would agree that together they’re a perfect match.