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Cracker Barrel is a mature, cheddar like cheese.

It is sold in small, foil wrapped cuboids about one inch by one inch square and about six inches long. You can buy several different strengths now, but when I grew up there was just Cracker Barrel.

Cracker Barrel is a brand name of Kraft foods, from the USA, the same people who make Philadelphia and Dairylea cheese. These are all synthetic cheeses, blended and mixed to give uniform and consistent taste and texture. It's the American way.

When I was little, my mother used to use Cracker Barrel to make sandwiches for my dad's packed lunch. Sometimes I used to help and my reward would be a small piece of Cracker Barrel. I still remember the distinctive taste and the smooth, uniform texture in my mouth, along with the pangs of hunger that they inspired.

Cracker Barrel was my first ever cheese, and for many years it was cheese for me! Later, I discovered other types of cheddar, and soon after that my experience widened and I entered a whole universe of cheese that I still explore today.

What was your first cheese?

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is the name of a chain of restaraunts in 40 states (according to their web site www.crackerbarrel.com). For the most part, Cracker Barrel features what I think of as Southern style food: Biscuits and gravy, country ham, sausage in link and patty form, etc. Their breakfasts are yummy, yummy, yummy. The food is surprisingly good, in my humble opinion. It is the only place I have found in the N.Y. capital region where one can get one's mitts on country ham.

There are some downsides to going to Cracker Barrel. The actual restaraunts are a nightmare to behold. This is because there is a "country store" that one usually has to walk through to get to the restaurant. The store is full of all the kind of crap that you probably wanted as a kid (little wooden toys, wind-up toys, candy galore), and the sort of things your aging aunt whom you just can't quite get the nerve up to put into a home clamors for day and night (quilts with the Lord's Prayer stitched on them, "collectible dolls", and all variety of kitsch). But the food is good.

The other serious problem with Cracker Barrel is that, being headquartered in Tennessee (and given the name for God's sake), you won't be surprised to find that they have had some problems with gay employees. They have been sued for labor discrimination against gays, the most public case involving a lesbian employee. Did I mention the food is really good?

Their sole vegetarian offering (as far as full meals are concerned) is to replace any egg with an egg substitute called "Eggstro’dnaire®". As for vegan stuff, they don't have a single thing on the menu that doesn't involve meat or dairy in some capacity.

Since the late 1990s, all Cracker Barrels have been smoke-free establishments.

In 1991, the Cracker Barrel restaurants enstated a company-wide policy against homosexuals. Many homosexual and suspected homosexuals were fired, regardless of job peformance.

Here's a quote from a memo to store managers:

"Cracker Barrel is founded upon a concept of traditional American values... It is consistent with our concept and values, and is perceived to be inconsistent with those of our customer base to continue to employ individuals... whose sexual preferences fail to demonstrate normal heterosexual values which have been the foundation of families in our society."

Officially, Cracker Barrel's president has made a press statement in which he said that this policy has been repealed; however, many maintain that unspoken discrimination lingers.

There's nothing stopping this from happening again.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and other civil rights organizations periodically revise drafts of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to sumbit to the Senate. This would ensure homosexuals job protection similar to that of the rights given to minorities by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Cracker Barrel has also had a rocky past with the NAACP, African-American customers, and employees.

"According to the amended complaint, the restaurant's discriminatory conduct includes: denying service to African American customers and their associates; allowing white servers to refuse to serve African Americans; seating African American customers and their associates in a segregated area (often in the smoking section of the restaurant); and requiring African American customers and their associates to wait longer to be seated or served than white customers." - NAACP press release
Also, Reuters recently published a story that stated that the NAACP joined another anti-Cracker Barrel lawsuit. The complaints are a mix of the old and new. Apparently, Cracker Barrel sat black customers in segregated areas (old) and served them food from the garbage (new!)


A personal note: I've never visited a Cracker Barrel, despite living in an area with many nearby. I have eaten take-out from said establisment, twice, only to fall ill both times. The food wasn't even notable.

Besides, isn't a Cracker Barrel a cramped space filled with crackers?

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