An excerpt, and understanding the marketing of “the most important meal of the day”, cereal, and…just read.
“Historians tend to agree that breakfast became a daily, first-thing-in-the-morning institution once workers moved to cities and had set schedules. In Europe, this first began in the 1600s, and breakfast achieved near ubiquity during the Industrial Revolution. With people going off to a full day’s work, breakfast became a thing. By this time, there was already a tradition of certain foods—like bread, ale, cheese, porridges, or leftovers—being cooked or eaten in the morning. Although, since chroniclers of history spend little time describing breakfast, tracing the origins of favorite dishes is difficult.
Why are eggs a staple of brunch? Searching for the eggs–breakfast link takes one back at least to early history; John A. Rice, a Bible scholar, describes Mary of Nazareth preparing eggs for a breakfast attended by Jesus. What about pancakes? Paleontologists speculate that humans ate primitive pancakes over 5,000 years ago; more recently, Thomas Jefferson enjoyed crepe-like flapjacks.But once breakfast became an American institution, the meal grew increasingly like dinner. “Americans wanted meat, meat, meat. And potatoes. And cake and pie,” Lowell Dyson, an agricultural historian, wrote of food preferences in 19th-century America. This mania extended to breakfast, and dishes like beefsteaks and roasted chickens joined staples like cornbread, flapjacks, and butter on American breakfast tables.
It was not a recipe for good health. Americans complained chronically of indigestion, which early nutritionists and reformers named dyspepsia. As the historian Abigail Carroll has explained, “Magazines and newspapers [just overflowed] with rhetoric about this dyspeptic condition and what to do about it.” It was the 1800s equivalent of today’s conversations about obesity.Americans needed a simpler, lighter breakfast. What they got was cereal.Before cereal represented an over-sugared, overprocessed relationship with food, Americans viewed cereal as a health food. Its origins lie in sanitariums run in the mid- to late 1800s. It was a period when doctors were still often called quacks: Germ theory was just gaining prominence, and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s favorite medical tool was a bath. His malady cures resembled spa treatments; “hydrotherapy” was popular at the time.Kellogg and his peers believed they could improve Americans’ health by changing their diets. They thought that too much meat and too many spices had negative effects, and they preferred whole grains to white breads. A dietary reformer named Sylvester Graham invented the graham cracker in 1827. James Caleb Jackson, who did not allow red meat at his sanitarium, invented a cereal that he named “granula” in 1863. And Kellogg developed corn flakes in the 1890s.The original versions of these cereals were spartan affairs. They were not sweet, and people had to soak Jackson’s granula in milk just to make it edible. Critics calledgranula “wheat rocks.”
But people wanted them. “The first year that the product was available saw more than 50 tons manufactured and sold in spite of primitive production facilities,” a Kellogg biographer wrote of his corn flakes. “Soon cereal manufacturing companies sprang up all over the country.” By 1903, there were 100 cereal companies in Kellogg’s town of Battle Creek alone.It was a full-on craze. Cereal was seen as a solution to the nation’s dyspepsia, the author Abigail Carroll argues, and since it didn’t need to be cooked, it was a convenience food at a time when, post-Industrial Revolution, people had stricter schedules and less access to a kitchen or farm.The most successful food trends tend to combine science and morality, and the invention of cereal was no exception. Kellogg termed his lifestyle—more exercise, more baths, and simpler, blander foods—”biologic living,” and he gave lectures and wrote long tracts to promote it. He described the modern diet as unnatural and too diverse. “To eat biologically,” he wrote, “is simply to eat scientifically, to eat normally.” Like a paleo devotee, he promised a return to man’s “natural” diet.But Dr. Kellogg believed that eating biologically would solve much more than dyspepsia and indigestion. Like Dr. Graham with his graham cracker, Kellogg believed Americans’ meat-centric diets led them to carnal sins. “Highly seasoned [meats], stimulating sauces… and dainty tidbits in endless variety,” wrote Kellogg, a vegetarian, “irritate [the] nerves and … react upon the sexual organs.”
In his mind, masturbation was a shameful act linked to bad health, and over-stimulating diets, diseases, and sexual acts formed an insidious cycle. Eating cereal would keep Americans from masturbating and desiring sex, he insisted. “How many mothers, while teaching their children the principles of virtue in the nursery,” he wrote, “unwittingly stimulate their passions at the dinner table until vice becomes a physical necessity!” (He also recommended circumcision and tying children’s handswith rope to prevent masturbation and sexual urges.)”Read the complete article here