Thursday 26 February 2015

The Kellogg Brothers: Flakes

Today we mark the birthday (in 1852) of John Harvey Kellogg, one of the supreme cranks of a golden age of cranks. Kellogg, it seems, never met a crackpot idea he didn't like. He was a Seventh Day Adventist (though he flirted with pantheism), a convinced vegetarian, vehemently against alcohol and tobacco, a tireless enemy of sex in all its forms - but especially the 'solitary vice', the root of all the world's evil - and a keen advocate of frequent and copious enemas, also (inevitably) of eugenics and racial segregation. His Wikipedia entry alone is quite eye-watering stuff...
 Where Kellogg differs from other golden age cranks is that he left an enduring legacy - in the form of his ubiquitous Corn Flakes. With his equally crackpot brother, Will Keith, J.H. Kellogg made the chance discovery that if you mashed up corn into a pulp, left it lying around till it was stale, then ran it through a mangle, you'd end up with flakes, which could be toasted and passed off as food. John Harvey and Will Keith fell out massively, and indulged in a mighty, family-splitting feud, over whether sugar should be added to these flakes - but somehow corn flakes caught on and, more than a century later, they are still with us. So it is to the Kellogg brothers that we owe the decidedly cranky habit of eating processed cereals with cow's milk and calling it breakfast.


  1. There is a scene in one of Waugh's novels where, if memory serves, a country squire type is served some flakey product from America for breakfast instead of his beloved porridge. He is quite cranky about it and senses the heyday of Empire may have passed.

  2. Quite right too - it was all over for us when we started eating this kind of mush for breakfast...