Chow Town

Graham crackers created to improve health by decreasing sexual desire

You may never look at iconic, tasty s’mores the same way again.
You may never look at iconic, tasty s’mores the same way again. Special to The Kansas City Star

Thinking about warmer days to come — campfires, warm summer nights and yes, s’mores.

Thoughts turn to s’mores even when snow blankets the earth. What would life be like without those golden, honey-flavored squares that wean toddlers into kindergartners and make every Scout outing complete?

You know what I’m talking about … graham crackers.

While I am definitely not a history buff, a recent blog that I read mentioned the history of graham crackers and I was hooked. I yearned for more research to see if the story of how these sweet, but not too sweet, squares entered the food world was accurate.

Indeed, fact can be stranger than fiction. It seems that in the 1800s an evangelical minister, Sylvester Graham, created the original squares. Graham began marketing Graham flour, a form of whole-wheat flour, and he encouraged folks to bake their own bread.

More or less like a health food loaf, it most likely barely resembled what we know as the graham crackers of today.

While others were worrying about alcohol and tobacco consumption, Graham believed that people could take care of their health primarily by decreasing sex and gluttony.

Graham is believed to be one of the earliest figures to promote vegetarianism in America. He professed that a diet should consist of mostly simple, bland foods with lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, no spices, meat or alcohol.

This was the answer to societal issues and would suppress the human desire for sex. Back in the day there were thousands of folks who followed his teaching and they even had their own name — Grahamites.

One can only imagine what Graham and his band of Grahamites would think of his legacy and the resulting marshmallow, chocolate-infused treat that has become a ritual in America. I don’t think I will ever look at s’mores the same way.

Roxanne Wyss is one of two cookbook authors and food consultants in The Electrified Cooks. Her most recent cookbook is The Newlywed Cookbook, Cooking Happily Ever After. She develops the recipes for the “Eating for Life” column for The Kansas City Star and is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier. She blogs at pluggedintocooking.com

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