The surprising reason why Dr John Harvey Kellogg invented corn flakes

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In the 1850s, Americans’ favorite answer to the question “What’s for breakfast?” Was “Everything”.

At the time, an Englishman wrote at home remark on the huge breakfasts available at hotels. He could choose from breads, pastries, pancakes, donuts, boiled chickens, cold cuts and beef steaks.

Not all Americans could eat extravagantly, but those who could choose large dishes rich in meat. “Hot Beef,” Abigail Carroll writing in Three Square Meals, was “a dish without which a good 19th century bourgeois breakfast was increasingly considered incomplete”.

As Americans rushed to breakfast, it sparked a nationwide case of indigestion and an interest in lighter fare that led to the rise of America’s original health food: cereals.

The grains would create fortunes and create the multinational companies that we still know today. But Dr John Harvey

Kellogg
, the inventor of cornflakes, didn’t care about profits. For him, grains were not only a healthy food because they would improve the digestion of Americans. He believed that a diet centered on bland foods like grains would keep Americans away from sin. A very specific sin: masturbation.

Healthy fashion

For Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, his invention of corn flakes was part of his health movement which he called “organic life”.

The push for Dr. Kellogg’s health movement was a national case of digestion. “The Americans wanted meat, meat, meat. And potatoes. And cake and pie, ”Lowell Dyson writing of food preferences in nineteenth-century America. This was as true for breakfast as it was for dinner. Among the rich, the steak and pie could be dinner or breakfast.

The nation’s health outcomes were not good. Indigestion was rampant. Like Abigail Carroll, author of Three Square Meals, has explainedAmericans called this indigestion “dyspepsia”. Discussions about dyspepsia resembled the obesity debates of today, repeatedly written in magazines and newspapers.

For a number of health reformers, the solution was to create simpler foods. Graham cracker was invented by a diet reformer named Sylvester Graham in 1827. In 1863, James Caleb Jackson, who ran a spa, invented the first cereal, which he called “granula.”

Dr John Harvey Kellogg also ran a spa, where he treaty diseases and ailments with innovative ideas like “hydrotherapy” (essentially baths at different temperatures). Dr Kellogg was a vegetarian and, with the help of his brother William Kellogg, he created or invented foods like peanut butter and meatless meats for his patients.

Corn flakes, which he first designed in the 1890s, have been his most enduring legacy.

Few people today would eat Kellogg’s corn flakes or Jackson’s granula. They had no added sugar or flavorings, and they were so hard that they often cracked people’s teeth.

But in the 1900s, people were desperate for cereal, and they bought as much grain as Dr. Kellogg’s health facility could produce. It was an opportunity for Dr. Kellogg to spread his gospel of biological life.

In dense books and popular lectures, John Harvey Kellogg has explained the merits of bland foods like grains. Writing about the tendency of Americans to eat “with the weak stomach of a primate” apparently all types of food, including the newer “artificial foods,” he concluded that “it is no wonder that the human gastric machine has deteriorated, and dyspepsia, constipation and peristaltic woes of various descriptions have become universal in civilized countries.

Dr. Kellogg’s “biological life” called for more exercise, more baths, eating whole grains, and less meat. As with today’s paleo or organic trends, he described it as a scientific return to natural principles. “Eat organically”, he said wrote, “Is simply to eat scientifically, to eat normally”.

Unlike today’s dietary trends, he also believed that modern man’s diets lead them to carnal sins. “Very seasoned [meats], stimulating sauces … and delicate treats of an endless variety ”, Kellogg wrote, “irritate [the] nerves and… react on the sexual organs. Dr. Kellogg has written as much about the dangers of sex and masturbation as he has about a healthy lifestyle. Cereals were the bridge; the dietary remedy to keep Americans’ diets from leading them to sin.

Despite the creation of a product, cornflakes, which sparked a food craze, Dr Kellogg cared more about the cause than the profits. In his lectures, he explained how people can make cereal at home.

“I’m not after business,” he said Recount people. “I am after the reform.

The rise of cereals

The grain trade quickly moved away from Dr. John Harvey Kellogg.

Although Dr Kellogg tried to protect his invention with a patent, businessmen quickly understood that they could produce grain without harming it. Hundreds of businesses have sprung up near the Kellogg health facility in Michigan, a fact that Dr. Kellogg has taken personally. After all, of the two most successful grain companies, one was started by a former patient and the other was founded by Dr. Kellogg’s brother, William.

William Kellogg founded The Kellogg Company, and the former patient, CW Post, created and sold Grape Nuts.

They succeeded by doing something Dr. Kellogg despised: adding sugar. The idea had long been a point of contention between Dr. Kellogg and William Kellogg. William thought they should make corn flakes taste better, while Dr Kellogg saw sugar as a corruption of his healthy foods. But in the 1940s, all the big grain companies pre-coated their cereals with sugar.

The other reason cereals were successful had nothing to do with health. It was the ultimate cooked meal, and like Abigail Carroll, author of Three Square Meals, Remarks, this made it particularly attractive across the world as the industrial revolution led more and more people to leave farms and take work as employees. They had less time and less access to a kitchen, which made cereal and ‘ready to eat’ breakfasts appealing.

Grains have left a huge mark on the food industry. William Kellogg and The CW Post were advertising pioneers, spending incredible sums to advertise their cereal brands and creation some of the earliest cartoon mascots for their cereals. Upon the death of The CW Post, he had a net value (in 2016 dollars) of approximately $ 800 million.

Dr Kellogg’s motivations have not disappeared. You can see his idea of ​​organic living reflected in health trends like the organic movement and paleo diets, which in many ways are a backlash to the processed food industry that grains helped create.

Fortunately, Dr. Kellogg’s take on how diet influences our sex lives hasn’t seen the same revival.


This article was written by Alex mayyasi, a staff writer for Priceonomics. You can read more about the invention of cereals and the history of breakfast here.

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