Graham Crackers: The Cure for Lust

Decades before health guru John Harvey Kellogg developed cereal as a staple of the American diet at his Battle Creek Sanitarium, there was Sylvester Graham. Graham's invention of what would later become known as the Graham cracker was part of his crusade against lust and gluttony.  

Sylvester Graham was a Northeastern evangelical minister during the temperance movements of the 1830s. While his fellow reformers were concerned with social and humanitarian issues like alcohol and tobacco consumption, women's rights, and slavery, Graham turned his attention to sex. Americans' animalistic desires were getting the better of them, he believed. Excesses in the way of recreational sex, gluttony, and materialism were leading Americans to depravity and making them physically ill.

Inspired by his religious ardor to save mankind, Graham encouraged people to take control of their health by repressing their carnal urges. These were easily stimulated by an all-American diet of flavorful, fatty, and meaty dishes. In Graham's view, the correlation between sex and health was simple: the more immoral the activity, the more bodily harm was done. And there was much immorality that needed suppressing. Graham made his name by giving popular speeches admonishing masturbation, believing it to "inflame the brain more than natural arousal," and therefore resulting in insanity. Sex more than once a month was downright pathological. "Graham was an extremist," says Dr. Ruth Clifford Engs, author of Clean Living Movements: American Cycles of Health Reform. "There were other popular health reformers at the time, but sexual urges was his particular thing."

Graham also had nothing good to say about mass-produced bread, which lacked whole grains and was sometimes adulterated with cheap fillers. His response was a whole grain alternative, but his version little resembled what we use for S'mores today. In fact, Graham would be appalled by the food that outlived him. Read the story of how Graham crackers came to be at the Atlantic. -via Digg

(Image credit: Flickr user amanda tetrault)


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