Monday, March 5, 2012

Follow the Biscuit Crumbs

National Biscuit Company display - Chelsea Market
When I was growing up in Arkansas, buying boxes of animal crackers for $.25, I had no idea that they got their start in New York City.  Or, when I dipped oreos into a glass of milk while watching Saturday morning cartoons, the last thing I cared about was where they were invented.  It seems that my mother always had a box of Premium Saltines in the pantry, just right for smashing and sprinkling over bowls of chicken noodle soup.

As I learned this weekend, all of those childhood favorites were originally baked in huge ovens owned by the National Biscuit Company (now Nabisco in Chicago), in today's West Chelsea.  In fact, by the early 1900s, NBC produced more than half of the "biscuits" in the United States. Oh, to have walked along the street outside those bakeries, with smells of oreos, fig newtons, graham crackers, and animal-shaped delights overwhelming my sense of smell!

Today, other smells, sights and sounds entice visitors to Chelsea Market, which stands on part of the old National Biscuit Company Complex, from Ninth to 10th Avenue and 15th to 16th Street.

As soon as I walked in the doors on Sunday afternoon, I knew I would be there a while.  My first decision was, "Which bakery should I choose?"  Yes, bakeries are still there, four of them -- Amy's Bread, Sarabeth's Bakery, Ruthy's Bakery and Cafe and Eleni's New York.  No oreos, but cases filled with bagels, breads, muffins, cakes, scones, cookies. . .

I inspected them all, and the decision was hard; but Amy's had something I couldn't resist, a hazelnut sour cherry muffin!  Along with a cup of Earl Grey tea, and my book, I found a tucked-away table and read as I savored each bite and sip.

 The market retains much of the original structure, such as the factory floors and exposed brick,

with winding halls that led me from Anthropologie at one end to L'Arte del Gelato at the other, and more in between than I had time to visit.

Yet a grandmother always has time to look for one more fun item to share with her grandchildren; and among the teas, jams, chocolates and baskets at Chelsea Market Baskets, I found it.

The Original Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter Cupcake Kit

If there were only a bookstore nearby where I could get a copy of Peter Rabbit to read while those cupcakes are baking.

How convenient, one right across the hall.

Now, maybe a few boxes of animal crackers before I go. . .        

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