If you thought graham crackers were invented to sandwich melted chocolate and toasted marshmallows together, think again. These sweet, perforated crackers came into existence by the hands of evangelical minister Sylvester Graham, with the goal of controlling your sexual desires. Imagine that: Graham crackers as a form of birth control. Graham's aim was not to bring the world a campfire treat, but to rid us of our carnal urges and general evils. A lofty aim for a man -- and a small cookie.
But the graham cracker we know today would not get Graham's blessing. Let us explain: The 1800s were the beginning of the industrialization of food -- and bread in particular was affected by this. Bread moved away from being baked in the home with wholesome ingredients and became the mass-produced, nutrient-devoid loaves that are common today. To Sylvester Graham, this was a major problem.
As a remedy, Graham marketed whole wheat flour -- which came to be known as Graham flour -- and encouraged people to bake their own bread, including his original "graham cracker" recipe, known at the time as graham bread. It was a bland, health nut loaf -- the kind of dense, brown bread, we imagine, that would make the most lustful teenager renounce sex all together just to escape another slice. (The sugar-and-bleached-flour-filled version we love today is actually the handiwork of Nabisco.)
Graham also called for a vegetarian diet and a good sleep regimen to set you on the path to God and tame your carnal desires. He believed that lust could cause diseases such as pulmonary consumption, spinal diseases, epilepsy and insanity.
While many regarded Graham as a nut -- and possibly an American pioneer in fad diets -- he did amass a following. And we have those people to thank for the s'mores we love today. Because while his belief faded away, his cracker just got better.
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