Saturday, November 21, 2009

Graham flour--a guest request

I'd like to say that I don't do guest requests, but actually, it's because almost nobody asks me to. I suppose they (wrongly) assume that the window of ignorance is quite small here and I am only patching in a few holes. However, it is pretty certain that if they, or you, post in, I will find some aspect of the subject at hand that I am truly ignorant about. So ask away, if you feel so inclined.

A request to know more about Graham flour comes, of course, from my sister, also so surnamed, at least at birth. She's recuperating from surgery right now, and made the easily fulfilled request that I find out more. In Graham solidarity, I must do so. I don't mean the solidarity of siblings--I mean the solidarity of all people who have had to go by the nickname 'Graham Cracker' everywhere.

Of course, we all know Graham crackers. Nice, sweetish brown crackers with a perforation down the middle both lengthwise and widthwise, so that they easily divide into four. That whole concept is an interesting idea in itself--what's the point exactly?--and I can't offhand think of any other crackers that followed down this evolutionary trail. The evolved state of the Graham cracker--a la Pokemon, is the S'more, the delectable campside treat consisting of Graham cracker, Hershey's chocolate bar and barbecued smashed marshmellow. Sublime.

But wherefore art thou Graham, cracker? Would not a Miller cracker or a Smith taste as sweet?

I have some vague recollection that Graham crackers may originally have been some sort of health food concoction, but maybe I'm thinking of Kellogg's cornflakes.

I don't think I've actually eaten a Graham cracker in some time. Perhaps they are on the cusp of a comeback. At any rate, here now is their history and lore:

Well, first of all I did have this right--there is indeed a health food aspect to it. Graham flour, which seems to have been produced mainly for the purpose of making the cracker, was thought up by one Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian minister, in Connecticut in 1829. It was finely ground white flour mixed with coarsely ground wheat bran and wheat germ. So far so good, right? In the current era, none of us would say no to a little extra fiber, would we? I mean, if it was in a s'more or something.

But oh, dear. What was this health cure in aid of in 1829? The suppression of carnal urges, that's what. Sylvester and yes, John Kellogg, felt that eating bland foods could help control sexual desire. I'm pretty sure this is why the chocolate and marshmellow were added at some point, as, without savory food and without any sexual urges, what were sentient beings supposed to live for? Chocolate must have come as something of a compromise--or at least a gift from Divine Providence.

Okay, I'm making that bit about the chocolate up. I have no idea when the chocolate figured in. But in these, our degenerate times, Graham crackers are apparently often not even made of Graham flour! They use the very refined white flour that cousin Sylvester so deplored! What a slap in the face. I suppose I could attempt to start a back to basics movement, but the truth is, I don't really want to go there either...

To your good health, Julie! Though I'll leave that to you rather than Sylvester to define what that is.


  1. S'more goes against everything the Graham cracker stood for. The poor reverend is likely spinning in its grave.

  2. I try not to eat any Graham crackers, because next thing I know...



  3. Marco, sometimes an inventor just has to let his or her creations go. Especially if he or she is dead.

    Brian, I doubt that this is the result of wholesome Graham flour. It must come from either the devil or those twentierth century additives. Well, it really amounts to much the same thing.

  4. Graham crackers:

    1) Improve the circulation

    2) Put color in the cheeks

    3) Quicken the understanding

    4) Improve the eyesight

    5) Make one want to hump anything that moves
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  5. Peter,

    I think you've homed in on the chief flaw of the Graham Diet, as it was apparently called. Improved health doesn't exactly go hand in hand with decreased carnal urges. I wonder if Sylvester ever figured this out.

    I just learned this further tidbit of information. According to Wikipedia, it was forced upon the students of Oberlin college by one of Graham's disciples. Students rebelled by eating off campus--a classic student move--and a professor was fired because he insisted on bringing along his own pepper. The college got rid of the diet after there was a 'public outcry'. And here I was, thinking student protest was a brain child of the sixties.