Why were Graham Crackers invented?

Graham Crackers

Individuals on social media, particularly on Twitter and TikTok, may have noticed a current trend where users joke about the origins of the basic graham cracker as a tool to curb sexual inclinations. While it may appear strange, there is one viral trend that is based on reality. Graham crackers served a more puritanical role in 19th-century America long before they were employed to make s’mores or the delectable crust of a Key lime pie. Sylvester Graham, an American Presbyterian clergyman whose views on food, sex, alcohol, and nutrition would sound harsh to today’s cracker-snackers, created Graham crackers. Graham and his tens of thousands of followers, known as Grahamites, felt that eating indulgent foods was a sin. Graham began a diet to counteract this moral degeneration.

Why were graham crackers invented?

While graham crackers were created to combat vices like smoking and drinking, as well as undesirable habits like masturbation and filthy thoughts, the solution is far more complex.

In the 1830s, Graham sponsored health resorts that emphasized a bland diet free of sweets and meat. Graham’s ideas, according to Refinery29, spurred vegetarianism and the “first anti-sugar crusade” in America. Alcohol, cigarettes, spices, seasonings, butter, and “tortured” refined flour were all denounced by him. Caffeine was also prohibited. Coffee and tea, according to Graham, were equally as terrible as cigarettes, opium, or alcohol because they induced a “desire for stimulation.” Overeating, on the other hand, was Graham’s worst sin. He once observed, “An alcoholic occasionally reaches old age; a glutton never.”

Graham’s austere philosophy was based on the assumption that people’s eating habits influence their behaviour and vice versa. He felt that some meals were “overstimulating” and led to dirty ideas and impulses, such as masturbation—or “self-pollution,” as he termed it—which he claimed was a widespread pandemic that caused blindness and insanity.

Free of sugar—and sin

Graham’s beliefs impacted John Harvey Kellogg, the developer of the corn flake, who was born a year after Graham died. Kellogg, like his predecessor, felt that meat and certain savoury meals caused sexual desires, thus he recommended eating basic foods like cereals and nuts instead. (Surprisingly, the original corn flakes and graham cracker recipes did not contain any sugar.) Graham advised young men in one lecture that if they avoided “undue excitation of the brain, stomach, and intestines,” they might keep their minds from travelling to prohibited areas. Tobacco, caffeine, pepper, ginger, mustard, horseradish, and peppermint were among the foods and drugs forbidden. Milk was also prohibited because it was “too stimulating and oppressive.”

What could Sylvester Graham’s followers eat?

Unlike the refined white flour loaves served in bakeries at the time, Graham’s diet consisted mostly of coarsely ground wheat or rye bread. Graham’s crackers and muffins, both popular morning items, were made using the same flour. One of John Harvey Kellogg’s initial attempts at producing cereal entailed soaking twice-baked cracker crumbs in milk overnight.

Kellogg, on the other hand, was one of the last adherents of Graham’s diet, which had fallen out of popularity by the 1840s. In 1840, a Grahamite was recruited at Oberlin College in Ohio to rigidly follow the school’s dietary programs. One professor was sacked for bringing a pepper shaker to the dining hall, while starving students staged a protest the next year, claiming that the Graham diet was “inadequate to the needs of the human system as it currently exists.” The Grahamite and his despotic dietary regimen were eventually booted out.

Someone else corrupted Graham’s crackers, much like Kellogg’s corn flakes, and moulded them into the palatable shape we now know—and, yes, love—today. It was the National Biscuit Corporation, which later became Nabisco, in Graham’s instance; the company began making graham crackers in the 1880s. Graham, on the other hand, would probably roll over in his grave if he realized they were made with sugar and white flour, and that they’re frequently topped with marshmallows and chocolate for a truly delicious treat.

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