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There is great comfort in the familiar – the worn shoe, the daily routines. Here in New York, creature comforts provide a balm, soothing the scratches from a city that can be jarring and stressful. For the resident, there are many comforting icons of the familiar, whether it be a neighborhood diner like the Waverly, or those things recognized around the world, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.
I find great comfort in these enduring icons, particularly after living in this city for over four decades, a place where change is ever present – sometimes welcome but also often the enemy. As Professor Gurland once said in a lecture at NYU, people are driven to look for stability in a world of change. At another time, a close friend who knew me well, suggested that I needed a country home, not to seek country in the city. Certainly both individuals made good points – my ability to survive in this city has been enabled by seeking peace, tranquility, comfort, the durable, and the classic. Finding secluded spots, such as community gardens or Dead Horse Bay, is what I seek here, not the over-animated urban environments of clubs, bars, or other scenes.

Certainly I must not be alone. How else to explain, at least partially, the success of a restaurant like the Meatball Shop? There you will find many reasons for a thriving business, not the least of which is a cuisine that revolves around an American comfort food, meatballs. For me, the deepest and most profound comforts are those which draw on connections to places, experiences, and things of my childhood.

My father was one of the most dependable, predictable people I have ever known. He had a creative side, but essentially he was a man who lived by habit and routine. He loved pastries, crackers, and breadstuffs. At many meals, a box of saltine crackers appeared. But not just any box – a metal can sporting the Nabisco logo in one corner and proclaiming Premium in large type in the center with smaller type below it, Saltine Crackers. Newly purchased boxes of saltines were opened and the four sleeves of crackers were slid into that tin, keeping them fresh. We stored our crackers in that can for decades.

Driven by my family’s obsession to modernize, minimize, and sanitize, that can is no longer. Apparently they neither had interest in keeping nor found charm in an old can. I recall once advising my folks that they should consider keeping such a container, that perhaps it may be of value some day. My instincts were right – these Nabisco tins have become collectible, and recently while at the indoor flea market at One Hanson Place, I spotted one – the word Premium leaped out from a table of goods.

It was only recently that I learned that the Nabisco conglomerate was formed in New York City and occupied what is now the Chelsea Market building. I am sure that these cans evoke different things to its numerous collectors, but to me, that tin is a link between New York City, home of the National Biscuit Company (later Nabisco), and meals in New England with my father as I sat ruminating and fixated on that word Premium :)

3 Responses to Premium

  1. Leslie Gold says:

    I’m pretty sure we always had a box of those in our kitchen cabinets during my school years. A staple of our post war, processed food diet!

    Have you seen the huge old Nabisco box printing facility in Beacon, NY? It’s now the fabulous, enormous modern art museum called DIA:Beacon…

    “Dia:Beacon occupies a former Nabisco (National Biscuit Company) box printing facility built in 1929 and designed by Nabisco’s staff architect Louis N. Wirshing, Jr. In The building’s most recent owner, International Paper, donated the property to Dia in 1999.

    The former factory is built of brick, steel, concrete, and glass, and is considered a model of early twentieth century industrial architecture. Design elements include broad spans between supporting columns, and more than 34,000-square-feet of skylights which create an exceptional environment for viewing works of contemporary art in natural light. These features were an important part of Dia’s decision to site the museum there, as was its location on the banks of the Hudson River only a five-minute walk from the Metro-North Hudson Line train station in Beacon, sixty miles (eighty minutes travel time) north of New York City.”

    • Brian–You never mentioned how much that old metal box was selling for..I remember seeing them in our kitchen as well..Jim

  2. My parents have one of those tins (blue lid) in their cabinet at this very moment. They’ve had that tin for as long as I can remember (I’m 31). As soon as a box of crackers comes home from the store, those 4 sleeves go right in the tin. I thought my family was the only one who did that! Who knew? The day that tin gets thrown out, is the day the magic in the world dies.

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