G is for Graham Cracker – etymology


“He, who in any manner endeavors to excite the sensual appetites, and arouse the unchaste passions of youth, is one of the most heinous offenders against the welfare of mankind.”

“The convulsive paroxysms attending venereal indulgence, are connected with the most intense excitement, and cause the most powerful agitation to the whole system that it is ever subject to…These excesses, too frequently repeated, cannot fail to have the most terrible effects.”

These are the words of Sylvester Graham (1794 – 1851), Presbyterian Minister, advocate of temperance and dietary reform AND inventor of the Graham Cracker. He believed (and who can’t see the relevance today) that our food was becoming too processed and unwholesome, full of chemical additives, that were injurious to health. His eye fell on the production of bread. Refined, white bread was becoming a symbol of sophistication in comparison to rustic, brown loaves. Graham responded by developing Graham flour – a whole wheat flour – and with it he made Graham Crackers.

Graham and his followers (imaginatively called Grahamites) didn’t drink alcohol and gave up meat. They limited sexual intercourse and were dead against masturbation. They believed that eating plain, simple foods – like Graham Crackers – helped them control their sensual appetites.

But anyone reading this and thinking Graham Crackers might damage their sex lives can probably pretty much rest assured. I don’t think any of them are actually made of Graham flour any more. They’re just as processed and stimulating as so much of the food we eat now.

2 side notes: I have just checked and can’t find any dodgy history about either the digestive or rich biscuits (my UK equivalents). Sort of a shame. And reading about Sylvester Graham has reminded me of John Harvey Kellogg who I very much enjoyed reading about in The Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle.




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