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Graham Crackers Were Supposed To Be a Sex Drive–Suppressing Diet Food

The original vision for graham crackers had little to do with s’mores

smithsonian.com

For many people, graham crackers are simply a vehicle for delivering marshmallows and chocolate. But the original vision for graham crackers had little to do with s’mores. The crackers were marketed and designed as a diet food to help people cut down on their sexual urges.

Like many highly religious people, Sylvester Graham (yes, the cracker is named after him) thought the world had a problem with immorality. In the mid-1800s, the Presbyterian minister set out to find something to help those suffering from the sins of sexuality, in particular. He also happened to be quite interested in diets. A vegetarian himself, he believed that eating foods without spice or sugar, without processed flour and without chemicals was the way to avoid thoughts of sex. To help people follow that diet, he created crackers. Graham crackers.

Today, graham crackers do have both sugar and spices in them. But Graham’s original crackers were pretty awful to eat. The unrefined flour made them a tiny bit sweet and a tiny bit nutty. But mostly they were bland.

Courtney Allison at Today I Found Out writes about how the crackers evolved into our sweet treats:

Since the days of the Graham Diet, the cracker recipe has evolved significantly. For instance, Nabisco began making Graham crackers with bleached white flour and oils. The germ is rarely used as excluding the germ in the flour mixture results in the crackers having a longer shelf life. Today, grocery stores carry Graham crackers of all flavors: sweetened with honey, cinnamon sugar, and more. You can even snack on chocolate flavored crackers.  Beyond that, common ways to eat these crackers include smothering them with peanut butter, crushing them up for cheese cake and pie crusts, as well as cloaking them in frosting and decorating them in gumdrops to replicate winter cottages.  That’s not to mention that they are traditionally used as the outer layer of a tasty little marshmallow and chocolate sandwich by campfires the world over. If there is indeed a hole in the floor of heaven, and Sylvester Graham is looking down, he is surely not happy about any of this.

As far as we know, Graham’s crackers have not yet cured anyone of sexual urges. Graham’s invention also went on to influence several other foods like breakfast flakes and Rice Krispies. None of those have cured sexual impulses either.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Stale Cookies in a Jar
When Did the Girl Scouts Start Selling Cookies?

About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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