Cold breakfast cereal, gone soggy in milk. It was the family breakfast of choice; convenient, mostly economical, but never appealing.
The one exception for me was Grape-Nuts, which contains no grapes or nuts.
The name came from Charles William Post, a patient at the health sanatorium in Battle Creek, Michigan owned by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a man who promoted his grain-based diet as a way to combat digestive issues that drew the mostly meat-eating society to his clinic.
The original cold breakfast cereal, called Granula, was invented in 1863 by a man named Dr. James Caleb Jackson from New York.
His recipe required an overnight soak to make the bran nuggets chewable, creating a product that was never tasty or well received.
A short time later, Dr. Kellogg developed a much-improved cereal product and renamed it Granola, changing just one letter to avoid a lawsuit. When they accidentally discovered that sheets of processed wheat and corn left unattended overnight would flake easily, Corn Flakes were born.
Dr. Kellogg wanted to keep his cereal secret to himself, reserving the new grain form for his wealthy clinic patients. ***
His brother, Will Keith Kellogg, had a different idea.
He bought out his brother’s cereal patents, and with brilliant marketing techniques, expanded the business into the breakfast empire known as Kellogg’s of Battle Creek.
In 1893, Mr. Post entered Dr. Kellogg’s Sanatorium to recover from a nervous breakdown.
On returning home, he invented his own version of a granola product, naming it Grape-Nuts for the nutty consistency, and the “grape sugar” that was produced in the baking process.
He began to market Grape-Nuts as a “brain food”, and extolled the benefits of daily consumption.
Quaker and Ralston Purina both entered the fierce competition for the family breakfast dollar.
Generations of children took great joy in sending those saved box tops to Battle Creek, Michigan. The prizes weren’t so special, but the process was. And an industry flourished.
A century later, those prepared cereals occupy some of the busiest shelves in our modern supermarket.
*** A 1994 film called “The Road to Wellville” took a comic look at some of the eccentricities attributed to Dr. John Kellogg at his famed clinic, with the lead role played by Anthony Hopkins.