Saturday, February 18, 2017


Breakfast as we Americans know it today might not be the same if not for J. Harvey Kellogg, born 165 years ago this month. Kellogg was not the first to have the dry cereal idea: the Native Americans introduced their breakfast of popcorn to the English colonists in the 1600s.

The Michigan-born John Harvey Kellogg was an M.D., a surgeon a well as a nutritionist, educated at New York University. Along with his younger brother, Will Keith Kellogg, a businessman and industrialist, he ran the Battle Creek Sanitarium. The sanitarium, owned by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, was a place for patients to regain good health while learning, according to the church’s tenets, to exercise, eat, and eliminate properly.

One of the beliefs at the sanatorium was that bland foods would lower the libido. A regular staple of the breakfast meal, part of a strict vegetarian diet, was boiled grains. The story goes that one morning the wheat grains were badly overcooked. What to do? In the spirit of “waste not, want not,” the brothers decided to dry and roll out the cooked wheat to make a dough. What they got wasn’t a dough, but flakes – wheat flakes. The patients liked it. That led to making flakes of corn, and thus corn flakes, were born. Kellogg’s has become synonymous with corn flakes.

Actually, the first to market corn flakes was C. W. Post. Post had been a patient at the sanitarium, and he ‘acquired’ the process and began to make and market flaked corn as Post Toasties. A year later, Will decided to do the same, and with his brother John, founded the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, later known as just Kellogg’s.

Oatmeal, farina, and such had always been available, but the dry cereal was less expensive and quicker to get to the breakfast table. After the advent of the corn flake, grains that were popped, pulled, puffed, or made into tiny o’s were healthier replacements for the eggs and meat, and maybe kippers if you were British, often eaten for breakfast.

For most people, on most days, breakfast, dried or frozen, now comes in a box. Dried cereal, sugared or not, is beginning to make way for new forms of ready breakfast foods that can be cooked quickly. Pop Tarts and Eggos aside, and both have been around for over fifty years, the selections have expanded to include things like breakfast burritos, filled croissants, stuffed hash browns, French toast sticks, and even steak and eggs. Corporate test kitchens are working overtime. Breakfast is an important meal, and it is becoming easier and easier to eat well while on the go.

Both John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will died at the age of 91. They must have been eating right for all those years.

The All-American artist, Norman Rockwell, did
illustrations for the All-American breakfast.

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