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HomeFood Articles'D' to 'O' Food History >  Granola and its Origins

 

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SEE ALSO: Granola Cereal Recipes

GRANOLA ORIGINS AND HISTORY

 

This "hippie" food of the 60's 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 nutritionist", 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 1850's. 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 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, 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 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 1960's 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 1960's 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  U.S. under the "Muesli" name.

 

 

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