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“A dead cow or sheep lying in a pasture is recognized as carrion. The same sort of a carcass dressed and hung up in a butcher’s stall passes as food”.

- Dr John Harvey Kellogg

If you had a bowl of cornflakes this morning, you probably didn’t consider it to be doctors’ orders. But Kellogg's cornflakes was developed by Dr John Harvey Kellogg (February 26, 1852 – December 14, 1943), a physician in the early 1900's seeking to improve the health of Americans. During his life, he was a staunch proponent of vegetarianism, exercise and enemas and ran a popular sanitarium (health resort) in Battle Creek Michigan. But his lasting legacy was bringing about the flaky breakfast cereals we know and love today.


The magic happened in his sanitarium kitchen. In addition to serving guests, part of his kitchen was dedicated to developing new health foods for consumption. His guests complained about their shredded wheat cereal being unpalatable. So Dr. Kellogg's put his food scientists to work to build a better cereal.  


When I put 'healthy' and 'breakfast cereal' together in the same sentence you might see this as an oxymoron. But the cereals made by the Kellogg's label today, resemble what Dr. Kellogg had in mind about as much as Henry Ford's Model T resembles a modern F-150 made by the Ford Motor Company. (And by the way, Henry was a patient of Dr. Kellogg). That's because of a huge family argument between Dr. Kellogg, and his brother W.K. Kellogg. And that again, goes back to the sanitarium kitchen.


It actually was Dr. Kellogg's brother, Will Kellogg, who had done the heavy lifting in developing the cereal. Dr. Kellogg provided the facilities and the ok. But it was Will that oversaw the many trials to make a better cereal. The hurdle to making a nice, stiff, flakey, cereal from wheat was that it became a soggy porridge during preparation. One day Will left another failed batch out, and went away frustrated for several days. But when he came back, he found a mold growing on it that naturally ruptured the wheat into flakes. Presto! Cereal flakes were born.


Dr. Kellogg was pleased to hear of his kitchen invention but had no interest in commercializing it. He wanted to limit its availability to his sanitarium patients and subscribers to their “Good Health” magazine. Will though, had eyes that stretched out beyond the windows of the sanitarium. Will wanted to sell their invention to the public. The spat between the brothers became intolerable when Dr. Kellogg heard that Will had committed an unpardonable sin: to make the cereal tasty, Will had added sugar! Dr. Kellogg was furious.


To understand the riff between brothers we need to examine another feud. This one between Dr. Kellogg and a prior sanitorium guest W.H. Post. Post had come to the sanitarium to lick his wounds after several failed ventures and while there became interested in some of the food science experiments being conducted in the kitchen. He could see commercial potential in some of them and began wandering around the kitchen. His spying was reported back by Will. Dr. Kellogg's response was "let him see everything we are doing".


When Post left the sanitarium he went to work right away copying an idea he'd seen in the Dr Kellogg’s kitchen. He set up a plant to produce a healthy coffee substitute and named his knock-off 'Postum'. It made him a fortune. Dr. Kellogg was incensed and publicly made his indignation known. Post, not one to back down, returned to the sanitarium for a face off. When Dr. Kellogg walked by and ignored him he spat: "Dog!" to which Dr. Kellogg quipped back: "Yes, and you know what dogs do on posts". Will tired of his brother's pride and piety wanted his deserved share of the pie.  


Will took his process and recipe and struck out on his own. He formed the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company in 1906 (it was renamed the Kellogg's Company in 1922). Will's cornflakes were a home run making him wealthy in a Michigan minute. But the animosity between brothers didn't end at the cereal. They sued and countersued each other for the right of use to their family name. Dr. Kellogg felt that his brother was sullying his goodwill and abusing an association with his professional standing in the community. The battle lasted a decade eventually reaching the Michigan Supreme court. Ultimately Will won the right to use his shared surname on his breakfast products. The brothers went to their separate graves never speaking to each other again.


In 2012, the Kellogg’s Company became the world’s second largest snack food corporation, after PepsiCo.


Who invented the first dry whole grain breakfast cereal?

That honor goes to Dr James Caleb Jackson (March 28, 1811 – July 11, 1895), another doctor. He called his concoction “granula”. It had a lumpy consistency and required soaking overnight before breakfast. But it was the first cereal in America marketed to be served cold - prior to this cereal, grains were boiled into a porridge before eating at the table.  


Dr Jackson also has another claim to fame. He was an advocate of vegetarianism and hydrotherapy. His most famous patient might arguably have been Ellen G. White - founder of the Seventh Day Adventists. Scrutiny of her laws of health have led some experts to question whether some of them were plagiarized from the pages of Dr. Jackson's writings. But that is beyond the scope of this book.

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