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Confessions of a Ballpark Food Vendor

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Jul 30, 2018

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player, Stitcher, or Apple Podcasts. (And please subscribe!)

Baseball season is underway, and if someone takes you out to the ball game, you might just ask them to buy you some peanuts and Cracker Jack.

This week on The Sporkful, we explore the intricacies of the two foods immortalized in "Take Me Out to the Ball Game".

But first, one crucial distinction: It’s Cracker Jack, NOT Cracker JackS (unless you have multiple boxes). So if you dig into the bag and pull out a handful, you would say, "I have some pieces of Cracker Jack." Not "I have some Cracker Jacks."

CrackerJack_Michael Verhoef

Let's begin with the song itself. The guy who wrote it in 1908 had never even been to a ball game. But that reference to Cracker Jack translated to free advertising the likes of which America has not seen before or since.

In a classic On The Media story from 2002, our friend Mike Pesca, host of Slate's daily podcast The Gist, looks at the history of the song and tries to put a dollar value on the free advertising that the song has given to Cracker Jack over the decades.

We also get some serious peanut-eating advice from Nile Brisson, a third-generation peanut man and president of Peanut Processors, Inc. in North Carolina.

Nile tells us the best way to eat peanuts in the shell and explains how they get the salt inside without breaking the shells. (It may seem like magic, but it's not.)

Later in the show, I talk to Ted Berg, a sports writer for USA TODAY and a former food vendor at the old Shea Stadium, former home of the New York Mets.

And he has some stories to tell -- like that time an unhappy customer spat a hot dog at him.

“I said ‘Sir, hot dogs are, by nature, pre-cooked,’ and he lost it," Ted says. "He ultimately got kicked out of the game -- which made me mad with power for at least a day.”

Ted also reveals the best and worst assignments a ballpark food vendor can get -- listen in to the full episode for that!

Plus, Ted and I debate some vital Cracker Jack issues: ideal popcorn-to-peanut ratioclustering, and, of course, which prize is the best.

Today's sponsors:

Interstitial music in this episode from Black Label Music:

- "Stay For The Summer" by William Van De Crommert

- "Mother Trucker" by Steve Pierson

Photos: Flickr/CC: MudflapDCFlickr/CC: Adam KubanFlickr/CC: UGA College of Ag & Environmental SciencesFlickr/CC: Peter MillerFlickr/CC: Dennis MiyashiroFlickr/CC: hermanturnip

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