When you think about it, the tradition of eating processed grains covered in milk is really weird. Cereal the way we know it has only been around since the last century’s turn, and before that, the only people who ate ‘porridge’ (boiled whole grains) did so because they couldn’t afford meat.
If you look up Cereal on Wikipedia, the entry mentions some of the processes used to make modern cereal. Oats are rolled, other grains are puffed, in a scientifically named Puffing Process, and some are shaped by extrusion. If you click on the extrusion link, you will read words like “forced through a perforated plate” and “cut by blades,” and “pushed by a screw into a die.” All of which sounds complicated, and painful. Isn’t cereal supposed to be a friendly, happy way to start your day?
The Wikipedia entry dedicates an awful lot of screen space to one of the early cereal pushers, a hard-working immigrant named Ferdinand Schumacher. He is credited with inventing the process by which modern oatmeal is made. The ‘Oatmeal King’ grabbed one of the most lucrative government contracts ever when he was hired by the Union army to feed breakfast to the soldiers during the Civil War. He made a fortune. And then he lost it all. The religious man put all his faith in God instead of insurance and when a fire destroyed everything he was forced to sell all his ideas to his competitor. And that is why we get our oatmeal from Quaker and not from Schumacher.
(In an unrelated aside: at the ripe old age of 77, Schumacher married his best friend’s daughter who was in her 30’s. An obituary mentions that this second marriage ‘was without issue.’)
Apparently, cereal creators are all a bit weird. I’m sure you’ve all heard of how strange Kellogg was? If not, go watch the movie, The Road to Wellville, staring Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Kellogg.
The tagline for the movie reads, “A comedy of the heart and other organs. Anthony Hopkins is Dr. Kellogg, sexual revolutionary, cereal inventor and founder of the most outrageous health spa in the world.” The hyperbole notwithstanding, it is a funny movie, with a great cast.
Mr. Breakfast over at mrbreakfast.com is full of all sorts of happy facts about how wonderful breakfast, (more specifically breakfast cereal,) is for you. He quotes studies that say things like ‘children who eat breakfast have more active minds.’ Yeah, which lasts until the sugar rush dies down. He also says that the low-carb thing is a fad and that 11 servings a day of grains are good for you. As long as all those servings aren’t covered in sugar, and aren’t more than 100 calories each. ‘Cause you also have to leave room for the 5 servings of veggies and the 4 servings of fruit and… wow – that’s a lot of food.
Well, I know this is kinda crazy, but I think one serving of anything, including my favorite Cap’n Crunch, is plenty. But that’s just me.