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A Short History of the Graham Cracker

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Graham crackers have become the base of many of our favorite desserts- from holding up toasted marshmallows with chocolate syrup for campfire s’mores, to being ground up to form pie crusts for decadent cheesecakes, as well as many more deserts.We’ve also learned to eat it on its own as cookie manufacturers laced it with honey and cinnamon.

It’s so common that we never even asked, “Why was it made?” That is until the question was asked on TikTok and Twitter, sparking a barrage of people turning to good-old Google for the answer.

More surprising than people actually bothering to find out was the answer itself. 

Entrepreneur Magazine was among the first to write about the history of the Graham cracker online. 

According to their research, a minister in New Jersey named Sylvester Graham invented the cracker in 1829 as a means for people to curb sexual desires, much like the invention of cereals.

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Graham also drafted a cookbook called Treaties on Bread and Breadmaking which includes the history of bread, the process of fermentation, and how to make breads that were free from white flour.

Could Minister Graham have been the first low-carb diet advocate? We don’t know for sure, but what we do know is that he was a strict vegetarian as well, perhaps for the very same reason why he invented the infamous crackers.

He was definitely a self-abnegating man- he hated excess and any form of earthly pleasure. He advocated for sex to be performed not more than once a month, helped establish the American Vegetarian Society, and and shunned spices, tobacco, liquor, and white flour. 

It comes to no surprise that bakers considered him a persona non-grata, even going as far as attacking him physically and threatening to stage riots. 

But for every naysayer there is a fan, and his teachings appealed to American puritan values.

Minister Graham advocated for a simple lifestyle that consisted of cold showers, hard mattresses, and loose clothing. Boarding houses subscribing to his teachings were opened up. 

The Graham cracker we know today is a far cry from what it was intended to be. It is now commercially prepared with white flour and sugar and has become a favorite ingredient of bakers worldwide. One can only guess that the good Minister Graham would not be pleased.

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