When I was a kid we took a class trip to the Manischewitz factory. You’d figure a family name with the word “chew” in the middle might have something to do with food, but it’s a European derivative pronounced “Manischevitz”. Or in the old country, “Mah-ni-shayvitz”. But this was the new country in the early ’60s, and the company was happy to stuff little kids with Tam Tams, the original snack food that didn’t confer the religious benefits of their signature food product, matzah (as in Passover). Matzah has the flavor of cardboard, but this little delicacy was twice as tasty, hence the double Tam – the Hebrew & Yiddish word for taste. Except in English it became Tam Tam, as in the Flintstone’s Bam Bam.
Look, for all I know, that’s one of the reasons Bam Bam wore a Yarmulke-looking little cap on his keppeleh. Not really of course. His name derives from the fact that little Bam Bam runs around the Manischewitz factory pulverizing those crackers into broken pieces. The rumor is that Tam Tams were first introduced in 1940, but I’ve yet to have one that tastes like it was made after the 1800s. I kid you not. Ever have a fresh Tam Tam? I loved the taste of the only fresh ones ever made, the day of our school bus trip; a day that Bam Bam thankfully called in sick and all the crackers in the box were whole.
If you believe the New York Times, you may have a clue as to the scarcity of Tam Tams these days. A Times article from 2008 claims that the shortage is a deliberate slow down in production due to the waning popularity of the crackers. The article even quotes a source claiming that today’s kids and grandkids don’t go for that stuff, and speculating that the generation of potential Tam Tam consumers has either moved to Florida or passed on. If so, I suspect they passed on waiting for a fresh box of crackers.