Don’t Mock It!
By Patrick F. Cannon
I’m currently engaged in writing a history of the world, which I hope to finish in my lifetime or shortly thereafter. In my researches, I have consistently noted the impact that scientists and inventors have had on our daily lives. Some discoveries came about largely by accident and others through dogged determination.
Who can forget Sir Isaac Newton being brained by an apple (a Macintosh as it happens), then leaping to his feet and crying “gravity, by Jove!” Ever since, we’ve been able to keep our feet firmly on the ground.
And, of course, there’s Albert Einstein coming up with the Theory of Relativity while riding a tram in Zurich. As he rolled along, he suddenly wondered what would happen to time if the tram could travel at the speed of light, which was known to be pretty fast. He might, he speculated, arrive at the Swiss Patent Office, his then employer, before he actually left home. Despite the implications of such a thought, he pressed on and made his reputation. He didn’t get a knighthood like Newton, but it was just as well, as not everyone looks good on a horse.
History is replete with similar examples: Tom Edison noting that his eyebrows lit up every time he put his finger in an electric outlet; Alexander Graham Bell hearing his wife mutter obscenities to herself as she stretched he clothesline to a distant pole; and who can forget Irving Muddle inventing the Hula Hoop as he went over Niagara Falls in a truck tire?
But what of the unsung heroes? Just who was it that invented the wheel, and fire, the toothpick and selfie stick, or ludicrous pastimes like cricket and water polo, for that matter? We’ll never know. But there is another unsung hero of more recent vintage who has also yet to come forward.
Most of us have eaten a Ritz Cracker. If you see one now in your mind’s eye, you likely see it adorned with cheese, salami, peanut butter, Cheez Whiz or any number of toothsome snacks. If you’re rich, you might imagine the lowly cracker adorned with beluga caviar, or perhaps topped with pate de foie gras and a thin shaving of truffle. But somewhere lurks a genius who looked at the ubiquitous round of wheat and saw the Ritz Cracker Mock Apple Pie. This is a leap of the imagination without parallel in my experience.
Why does this innovator not step forward into the light of public acclaim? Modesty perhaps? Or an unwillingness to be thrust before the public in the pages of People magazine or The New Republic?
Of course, anonymity could permit future researches into alternative uses for other familiar foods. As you read this, our culinary giant might be looking at a pile of corn flakes and imagining Mock Turtle Soup. Or perhaps just trying to stay one step ahead of the nation’s apple growers (or people who have actually eaten a Mock Apple Pie).
Copyright 2016, Patrick F. Cannon