It is summer here in the good old United States of America. It is a time when many of us take to the woods and go camping. One of the more traditional foods we prepare is that delicious s'more, a delightful combination of toasted marshmallow and chocolate between two graham crackers. But the next time you chase a roasted weenie with a s'more by the fire, you may think of that cracker a little differently.
The graham cracker is named after it's creator, the Reverend Sylvester Graham. Graham was Presbyterian minister in the the 1820's to 1850's. He was particularly interested in using diet as a means of altering behavior. A staunch Christian, he was concerned with vice and finding ways of preventing it by means other than preaching. Two of his favorite vices to tackle were alcoholism and sexuality. He is one of the first supporters of a vegetarian diet. Science being what it was at the time...in fact the word "science" did not even enter the lexicon until the 1840's...Graham thought that what we put in our bodies affected our moral judgement. To this end he thought if you took a "deviant" and switched them to a special diet of nutritious but very bland vegetarian food that you could reform them. In a sense you are what you eat...bland food makes bland but good moral folk. Spicy food and meat brought out fiery traits and the animal from within. So in 1829 he came up with his famous cracker.
He especially thought this bland cracker would help people stop "self abuse"...masturbation, which Graham was certain put people at risk of blindness as well as opened up the person to more sexual deviancy down the road. Such a prolific and convincing writer was Graham that some of his disciples forced it on others, even one famous college in the midwest made the Graham Diet law for its students and faculty for a decade before it caused so much rebellion and turmoil it was scrapped. Graham died in the 1850's, but his legacy was carried on by the man who brought us Corn Flakes...another food in the vein of the Graham cracker. John Harvey Kellog was every bit as passionate as Graham and more willing to go to great lengths to "fix" moral decadance.
Kellog was not beyond mutilation to stop people from "abusing themselves". He would circumcise males with no anesthesia to stop the practice. If this did not work other procedures were employed that made male arousal impossible or painful. He would apply acid to the genitals of women to cause them to blister and be raw to prevent the same sort of "deviant behavior". If the behavior persisted medical devices were used to block access to the genitals or simply some people were restrained. This was combined with other gruesome things like ice baths, yogurt enemas, and even shock therapy at times. Kellog ran the Battle Creek Sanitarium which he and the Seventh Day Adventist church marketed as a health spa. The 1994 Matthew Broderick movie "The Road to Wellville" shows some of the bizarre ins and outs (pun intended) of the Battle Creek Sanitarium in is heyday.
So next time you have a bowl of corn flakes or a graham cracker just imagine what it was invented for...laugh because you know it wont stop anyone from "self abuse", and enjoy the taste...cause they are quite tasty.