The last thing you would think of gulping down when constipated is a bowl of breakfast cereal, at least I wouldn’t. But funnily enough this breakfast staple did start out by being a cure of sorts for those with gastric problems! And one of the names behind this invention is one you are most likely very familiar with. Yes you guessed it — Kellogg.
The period was the 1800s and the place USA. The affluent of the day were busy feasting on meat and poultry and little else. The result? Poor bowel movements, as the result of a diet high in protein and low in fibre. The problem was so bad that some of these people had to go to special clinics (called a sanatorium) to be relieved of their digestive problems. One such place was the Battle Creek Sanatorium in Michigan and its superintendent a man called Dr John Harvey Kellogg. To relieve his patients of their plight, he created a biscuit meal made of wheat, oats and maize — a combination that worked wonders for the digestively challenged! And so the granola was born and it was a huge hit.
However, there was still some time to go before the world was given the gift of corn flakes. And when it happened, it was not Dr John Kellogg who came up with the idea. It was his brother — Will Keith — who invented the famous corn flakes, a product that has become almost synonymous with breakfast cereals. The younger Kellogg, Will, was the manager at the same sanatorium as his brother. A few years later he and John Kellogg launched a joint venture to sell their cereal inventions. However, in 1906 they had big argument and Will Keith Kellogg started a company independently and called it the Battle Creek Toasted Corn company, which was rechristened the Kellogg Company
Now it may seem from the narrative above that it was just the Kellogg brothers who single-handedly shaped the breakfast cereal history — that isn’t so. In fact they weren’t even the ones with the original idea. The main idea was drummed up by Dr James Caleb Jackson in 1858. He made the first (recorded) breakfast cereal Granula (this by the way was the inspiration for Kellogg’s Granola). But there was a problem; unlike the present day avatars, this cereal had to be soaked overnight to become ready to eat. Hardly a handy meal, won’t you agree?
In 1893 another man, this time a lawyer, was busy creating a new cure for indigestion. His name was Henry D Perky and his invention was shredded wheat. His idea to make wheat biscuits was sound but the method he was using proved unsuccessful. Dr John Kellogg heard of his attempt and was impressed enough with Perky’s idea to offer him a lot of money to buy the patent. Kellogg backed out at the last moment, but not before he let slip some important manufacturing secrets in front of Perky. The latter used that information to improve his product and went on to make some serious money with the new improved shreddies. Despite these cereal inventions taking the world by storm in the 19th century, I should point out that the concept of breakfast cereals goes further back than the Kelloggs, Jackson and Perky. One well-known breakfast cereal is the oats porridge, even though it didn’t start out as one. In medieval times in Europe, people ate it at all times of the day. It was a simple meal but one rich in nutrients like carbohydrates, vitamins B and E, and even proteins if had with milk.
Today the supermarket aisles are choc-a-bloc with cereal boxes — plain, frosted, with nuts and dried fruits, made with wheat or oats or rice. Some even targeted at kids. Most of these are quite tasty but not exactly health food when eaten on their own. However, bunging in a few pieces of fresh fruit and nuts with warm or cold milk does improve their nutritional value. Had once in a while, these can be a good way to start your day.