For a cracker that is most recognized for being the business end of a S’more, the Graham Cracker has a pretty unusual history. It begins in the early 1800s with Sylvester Graham who was widely considered a health fanatic. He was a Presbyterian minister by trade and a health guru by passion. He invented the cookie/cracker to be part of the vegetarian diet which he promoted which also renounced white flour and spices. The Graham Cracker is made from Graham Flour which is a form of whole wheat flour. In the modern version, it is usually sweetened with honey or other sweetener, although Sylvester would have none of that. He was all about the plain food. He felt (and preached) that spices and condiments led to the imbibing of alcohol. He also preached that his vegetarian diet would help you abstain from sexual activity, and, in particular, from self-love, which Graham argued led to insanity and blindness. Essentially the Graham Cracker is the anti-masturbation cracker. That never really caught on as a company slogan.
Sylvester must have been the life of the party. However, perhaps as a tribute to his conviction and passion, he did have a lot of followers. His health and sexual abstinence movement became a thing across the United States and one of his more avid followers was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg who ran the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. Believing Graham’s preachings, Kellogg insisted his patients abide by a diet based on Graham’s ideology. It was Will Keith Kellogg, the sanitarium’s bookkeeper and John’s brother, who, thanks to a kitchen accident, created a new type of food from the guidelines of Graham’s teachings. The new food was in flake form, specifically corn flakes, and was generally well liked by the sanitarium patients. Not being as devoted to rehabilitating masturbators as his brother was, Will Keith Kellogg added a little sugar to the flakes and then took it to market. That turned out to be an $18 Billion dollar idea and the beginnings of a cereal empire. That was all thanks to Sylvester Graham’s anti-masturbatory movement. Think of that the next time you are eating your corn flakes.
Sylvester never made any money from Graham Crackers and if he knew how they were used today, he’d probably be pretty upset. (I imagine someone that uptight about masturbation would have a short fuse). The sales of Graham Crackers today coincide directly with the consumption of marshmallows and chocolate, which I don’t think ol’ Graham approved of. Still, if you have enjoyed a S’More, you’ve reached for a Graham Cracker. When you eat a s’more, the Graham Cracker has more function. The taste is all about the melty chocolate and gooey marshmallow. The cracker just allows you a vehicle to hold it and consume it. Still, it adds the texture that you need in every bite to make it perfect. You can’t imagine the s’more without the Graham Cracker – it’s part of the holy trinity of s’moredom. Thank you Sylvester for that contribution to out society.
I was doing double duty today – working both jobs – so I didn’t have much time to celebrate. I thought about making a pie or similar creation using crushed Graham Crackers as my crust. This is another fine use of this food. It sets up well (if you cook it with some butter) and it adds a sweet, little crunchy texture to whatever you are making. It pairs well with Key Lime Pie, Banana Cream pie and pretty much any kind of sweet creamy pie. In fact, they sell crushed up Graham Crackers for just that purpose. But I didn’t have the time to make a whole pie, so I couldn’t indulge in this usage. I got home around 9 pm and I was hungry and tired. I had a box of fresh Graham Crackers that I had picked up the other day, so I had a few options. Naturally I started thinking s’mores. I didn’t have a roaring fire upon which to roast them, but I did have a microwave. I took a cracker, topped it with milk chocolate chips and mini marshmallows and microwaved it for about 20 seconds. When I took it out, I topped it with “the lid” and viola!, I had a homemade s’more.
It doesn’t look it, but the chocolate and marshmallow got really melty. This was actually good. It was missing the char of one that was cooked over an open fire, but in a pinch, this was an easy recipe to crank out. It was simple, relatively clean (except for the sticky left mess on my face and fingers) and delicious. It gave you all the flavors you want in a s’more. Again, not the true s’more experience, but it works in a pinch. We had actually had s’mores roasted over a fire the night before, and those were much better, but that could have been because of the whole experience: the company, the fire on a summer night, the fireworks in the sky.
I had to put a little more into this celebration so after I washed up my s’more face and hands, I though about what else I could do. I remember as a kid having Graham Crackers topped with peanut butter as a little snack. That was always a treat. I think we actually used crackers topped with cinnamon and sugar, and that brought more sweetness to the party. Then I remembered that Lola’s mom used to snack on Graham Crackers and milk as an afternoon snack or late night treat. That sounded good to me. In my mind, she had this treat like a cereal – all served in a bowl, but Lola told me that she would just eat the Graham Crackers with a glass of milk on the side. Either way, it sounded like a nice peaceful treat and something that would be a nice way to end my night. I grabbed a stack of cookies and cracked them into a cereal bowl, then I poured on some milk and took my snack upstairs to bed. The day was over and I was indulging in one final treat.
I will say that of all the little snacks and treats I have had throughout this quest, this was one of my favorites. It was just a simple pleasure. Maybe it was because I was spent after a long day. Maybe it was because I was hungry but too tired to make anything else. Maybe it was the pleasure of enjoying it in our bed next to Lola by the din of the television light. It just hit the spot. On the con side of things, Graham Crackers do not do well in milk. They soak it up and turn to mush. There was no crunch at all to this and I was hoping for some crunch. However, as mushy as it was, it just delivered. It gave me that sweet graham cracker taste which sweetened up the milk and it was a delightful combination. I even liked the texture of the mush once you got used to it. It was a nice nightcap to a long day.
For a cracker that was invented to promote a simple vegetarian lifestyle without the indulgences of self-love, the Graham Cracker has come a long way. It’s a great example of something being used in the best of ways despite the origins of why it was invented. It’s the wisdom of Will Keith Kellogg seeing the potential in the flour and the flakes and pushing beyond the parameters of the intentions. It was the first Girl Scout who took her vegetarian cracker and thought this would be really good with melted chocolate and marshmallow. Our food should bring to us whatever we want – it should not come with sermons telling us what not to enjoy. The food stands for itself and that’s what I celebrated today, hairy palms and all.
Next up: National Fried Chicken Day
(Info from Now I Know.com)