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GranolaThis hippie food of the Sixties has a long rich history, that reads like an episode of Connections with James Burke. First there is Sylvester Graham (1794 -1851) from Pennsylvania, referred to in some books as Dr Sylvester Graham, an American physician and American nutritionis - he actually studied to be a Presbyterian minister and spent most of his life preaching temperance and nutrition. He was a strong advocate of vegetarianism (often called Grahamism in the 19th century), telling people they should shun meat, alcohol, tobacco, stimulants (coffee, tea) and white bread (bakers and butchers hated him). The mainstay of his dietary recommendation was home-baked bread made from his whole grain wheat flour called, naturally, Graham flour - and soon thereafter developed Graham Crackers.

Forward to 1863 to Dr James C Jackson of New York. The popularity of Spas and hydrotherapy reached its zenith during the 19th century (Jackson was an ardent advocate). He also advocated a healthy diet. He developed what he called Granula. This was a Graham flour formed into sheets, baked until dry, broken up, baked again, and broken up into even smaller pieces.

Move to Battle Creek, Michigan in the 1850s. It is an outpost in the Midwest of various elements of the health movement. In 1855 it becomes the headquarters of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which for religious reasons also advocates temperance, vegetarianism and a healthy diet. They took over a sanitarium formerly run by followers of Graham in Battle Creek and named it the Western Health Reform Institute (renamed Battle Creek Sanitarium in 1876) and in 1876 the son of prominent Adventist became director - Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. Because of its vegetarian and whole grain emphasis, the diet at the Sanitarium could be monotonous, and so Dr Kellogg experimented with foods. One of his developments was a breakfast food of whole grains, baked and ground up, which he named Granula. He was sued by Dr Jackson, so he renamed his concoction Granola!

He lost interest in cereals for a while, and turned his attention to nuts, and Granola never became a commercial success. (But Kellogg eventually came back to cereals, developed Corn Flakes in 1902, and together with his brother William Keith Kellogg formed the successful Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Co, later to become the Kellogg Co.)

Charles W Post spent almost a year as a patient at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in 1891, unsuccessfully. He left, and was soon cured of his health problems by a Christian Science follower (a religious system founded by Mary Baker Eddy). He opened his own health retreat, and in 1898 used Dr Jackson's basic recipe for Granula to develop Grape Nuts. Because of his marketing abilities, it soon became a success.

Kellogg, Post and the American Cereal Co (Quaker Oats) continued to develop breakfast cereals and, by the middle of the 20th century, most had become sugar laden concoctions marketed for children. In the 1960s when the health food market revived cereals of natural whole grain ingredients, they were called Granola, and enthusiastically adopted by the hippie movement. Most have dried fruit and/or nuts and added sugar or honey for flavor, and crispness and flavor are further enhanced by roasting.

So, to sum up. Sylvester Graham develops Graham flour and Graham Crackers. Later Dr James C Jackson uses sheets of baked Graham flour, broken up, rebaked and broken up again to create Granula. Then Dr John Harvey Kellogg, a Seventh Day Adventist and director of their Battle Creek Sanitarium, develops a mix of baked and rebaked whole grains, and also calls it Granula, is sued by Dr Jackson, renames it Granola, but fails to market it and it never becomes a success. Along comes Charles W Post, a patient at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, leaves uncured, gets cured by a rival religious system follower, opens his own health retreat, and makes his own Granola recipe, but calls it Grape Nuts and makes it commercially successful. The Granola name is revived by the modern health food movement, it becomes a hippie health food in the 1960s and finally, today granola has gone mainstream.

A similar cereal called Muesli was developed in the late 19th century by Dr Bircher-Benner, a Swiss doctor and nutritionist. It is now imported into the US under the Muesli name.

Chef James EhlerThis article is from Chef James Ehler of Key West, Florida.

James is a webmaster, cook, chef, writer and (like me) a self-confessed computer nerd. He is the former executive chef of Martha's Steak & Seafood Restaurant and the former Reach Hotel (both in Key West), the Hilton Hotel in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and the New Bern Golf and Country Club, North Carolina.

He is now webmaster and cook at the Blue Heaven Restaurant in Key West while he works on his Food Encyclopedia (five years so far). It is well worth paying a visit to James' food reference website which is a useful resource well worth Bookmarking - to visit either website just click on their title:

The Food Reference Website
The Blue Heaven Restaurant, Key West, Florida

© James T. Ehler, 2001
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