Breaking Fast

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.


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90 Responses to Breaking Fast

  1. dweezer19 says:

    Wow. Had no idea! Thanks for the concise yet comp,ete overbiew. I am noramlly not a facts person but I love the history of things. Good job! Now where did Mr. gibbons put my Grape Nuts……๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. I love these kind of stories. Now I am looking for more about them. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • There is quite a history with the Kellogg’s. In the 1800’s, folks were eating beef, pork for breakfast, went to the clinic with digestive issues.

      • I bet. I went to see if I could watch it on Netflix or Amazon Prime, I can’t. But I’ll keep my eye open for it. Our diets have come a long way, but now we have other issues. We need to find that balance.

      • It doesn’t show up often, Colleen. Not a big box office hit, it seems. And you’re so right about that balance.

  3. I remember the soggy bottoms of those cereal bowls. Mom and Dad used to allow us one teaspoon of brown sugar on our corn flakes – it would melt in the milk and be the prize at the bottom of the dish. Motivation, you could say, for not lingering over our breakfast.

    Speaking of sugar, it’s ironic, isn’t it, that what started as a health food cereal is now a huge industry, reviled by some for the added sweetener.

    • We were only allowed 2 in our family…Corn Flakes (unsweetened) and Rice Krispies. Our dad tried his best to keep sugar at bay. Fruit was ok in the cereal, the closest we came to sweet. I don’t think he’d recognize what passes as cereal today, Maggie.

  4. Ron Walker says:

    That was great, I loved all the facts. Now you have me wanting to see the movie with Hopkins in it.

  5. Erika Kind says:

    Great research, Van! We mostly don’t think about it but it is interesting how things have become they way they are today.

  6. There was nothing soggy about this post, Van. Who’da thought there was so much drama behind serial. Have a wonder-filled new week. Hugs!

  7. TanGental says:

    did you get that from the back of the packet?

  8. This is so interesting Van! Wow quite a history, I never had any idea!

  9. J.D. Riso says:

    You are a font of fun facts, Van. ๐Ÿ˜Thanks for clearing up the Grape Nuts mystery.

  10. How very interesting Van! I just started eating cereal again. Something called Kashi, bland, not so much sugar, but filling and I like the taste! โค
    Diana xo

  11. Beautiful Your Blog! I’m following. If you can, go ahead and comment mine too!

  12. joey says:

    I loved The Road to Wellville, what a hoot!

    I knew most of this, but not about Mr. Post! I think we’re a Kellogg’s kinda people here. I love cereal, truly. Rice Krispies is my go-to right now. Sassy seems to have devoted her life to mini Shredded Wheat. Although, I prefer the giant bales of wheat, and I think those are Nabisco. Granola with yogurt and fruit is also a prized snack here. I was never a fan of the Grape Nuts, but my oldest friend has always loved them, heated up.

    Some of the cereal is really dessert, if you ask me.

    • Bales of wheat…ha ha.I’ve had them, a bit dry. Granola with yogurt is a treat. And the sugar in most cereals is crazy high. My kids used to look forward to Halloween, when Count Chocula arrived. You take the prize.. the first one who knew the movie ! Thanks, Joey.

  13. My goodness, I had no idea the history behind Kellogg cereals. Good grief. Imagine reserving corn flakes for just the wealthy. Huh. I used to love eating Grape Nuts, Van, in fact that cereal was among my favorites. Great post! Thank you! โค

  14. Val Boyko says:

    Who knew? I certainly didn’t. Thanks for a fascinating post Van. ๐Ÿ’›

  15. Steph McCoy says:

    This was a very interesting read Van. Grape Nuts has been my favorite cereal for many years and while it never occurred to me to look into its history this was fascinating.

  16. Bernadette says:

    I could never figure out that name grape nuts. Thanks for the info.

  17. Amazing how famous breakfast cereal names are! I read the book “The Road to Wellville” years ago, Van. It was pretty kooky, but I’ve never forgotten it or its link to Frosted Flakes, my all time favorite as a kid – a box of sugar! Ha ha.

  18. I used to love Grape Nuts – but they didn’t love me. They had to sit in the milk just a bit to soften up, otherwise it hurt to eat ’em. And no sugar involved, either.
    Sadly – Grape Nuts used to cause me some pretty severe heartburn, softened up or not. Now, being low-carb, they’re off the table for good.

    The mini Shredded Wheat biscuits were good, too. My favorite way for those was to melt a good portion of butter in the bottom of the pan, toss in the dry cereal, stir to coat well, and sprinkle a bit of salt on top.

  19. So interesting! Great story, Van. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. dgkaye says:

    Loved this fascinating rundown of some the cereal giants Van. ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Joyful2bee says:

    That was fascinating! I didn’t know these origins of our cereals. Thanks for an interesting read!

  22. Goodness what a fascinating story. I am no longer a cereal fan but I loved coco pops as a child or putting hot chocolate on rice crispies if there were none left. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  23. The story of how the items that we usually take for granted came to be is always interesting.

  24. Lana_SHON says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  25. Wow.. I always learn something new when ever I visit Van.. and these giants of cereals I was pleased to read something I didn’t know
    Quaker oaks I have had many a bowl of porridge..
    I now make my own Granula.. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Wishing you a Peaceful weekend.. Love and Hugs xxx โค

  26. Lady G says:

    I think I saw that film Van! I love quirky stuff like that!

  27. This isn’t racist or anything: I’ve thought it sad that the developed parts of Asia jettisoned their wonderfully balanced wholesome breakfast of warm rice and veggies to adopt processed Western cereal and fast food (this for all meals). Cold food, esp first thing in the morning and in the cooler climates, weakens the G.I. so my boy gets whole grains and soup in the morning. Partly why I can’t write!!!

    Tuckered out.

    • What a concept…to eat the whole food, oats, rice, corn..instead of grinding it to a pulp, adding preservatives, sugars, etc. that our bodies do not identify! I so agree with you, D. I’m sure that those “developed” decisions have resulted in the same kind of maladies that plague us here…obesity, heart disease, etc. We will turn back, I think, maybe sooner than we think. Take care of yourself.

      • “What a conceptโ€ฆto eat the whole food, oats, rice, corn..instead of grinding it to a pulp, adding preservatives, sugars, etc. that our bodies do not identify!” Truly incredible that a whole nation could not see that and even in this enlightened age considers that a normal breakfast. You’re right. In parts like CA, we do have a large group of folks that is not unconscious of the stuff we put in our mouth.

        I am so happy to see your blog growing.

      • Thanks. It’s growing in spite of me, I’ve cut back a bit on posting ???

      • Posting is not always the primary way of gaining followers.

  28. Van, this was actually more entertaining than when I was reading the back of cereal boxes as a kid! Of course, back in those day’s, I was reading in a quest to see how many box tops I was going to have to collect in order to get the prize not found inside the box. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Early on, the Kellogg’s arranged to have the store cashier award the prize to the consumer. Later,they opted to put the prize into the boxes until they got more elaborate. I read that the prizes were not even manufactured until they got the box tops in Battle Creek. Such a process to sell cereal, Paul, and you were caught up in it, too.

      • Yep, and I eagerly looked at the boxes at the store before I bought themโ€”or rather, I begged mom and dad to buy them. Sometimes (rarely, though, as most were pretty sugary) I didn’t even want the cereal, but I sure wanted the prize. Oh those were heady days for a kid. ๐Ÿ˜€

  29. George says:

    Who would have thunk it..:) I love learning how businesses/ products evolve. Thanks for sharing this, Van..:)

  30. amommasview says:

    Wow, I had no clue! Thanks for that, I learned something once again from you ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. sheldonk2014 says:

    Great story had no idea
    As Sheldon Always

  32. Like most, I had no idea. Thank you for the brief history. I must say that breakfast cereal has saved my life by cutting down stress on many mornings as a busy mother.

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