Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 12:00PM
Recently we had relatives visiting from the UK and introduced them to the joys of S’mores. (For those who don’t know, this is graham crackers, chocolate and melted marshmallow). I explained the history of said that one of the key ingredients the graham cracker was designed to curb sexual appetites.
Now I’ve had a long held interest in the social history of sex, and the graham cracker (GC) definitely comes under that category. In flavor it’s akin to the British digestive biscuit, and like some of our best cultural and culinary creations they were both designed for to fix big problems. Digestives as the name implies being a cure for upset stomachs. People thought they had antacid properties and now McVities sells theirs with a disclaimer. (Imagine the poor soul who eats a whole package hoping, waiting, to feel better…) Meanwhile the GC itself was meant to stop people masturbating. Indeed – and not in that way that ice cream companies sometimes advertise decadent flavors to ladies as a replacement for a lover.
In 1829 Dr Sylvester Graham was a Presbyterian minister, advocating a bland diet. Its adherents could eat whole wheat and no meat, lots of fruits and vgetables, no spices and only sparing amounts of butter. (Makes you wonder what people will say about Atkins in 100 years time). From the 1830s to 1941 the poor students at Oberlin College were forced to follow the diet. (You can only imagine it lead to more masturbation the food is so dull).
Graham’s enduring cultural legacy is the eponymous cracker, made now from white flour (bad in his book) and corn flakes. Dr John Kellogg was Grahamite and together with his brother made corn flakes as part of the Graham Diet.
Likewise, marshmallows also had a “healthy” origin. Made first from the mallow plant (it grows here in the sticks as a roadside wildflower) it was a cure for the sore throat, though early on, the Egyptians were serving it up as candy too using mallow root sap. Making the candy was labor intensive so in the 19th century French candy makers replaced that sap with gelatin, egg whites and corn starch.
Ironically the only ingredient in a S’more that has smidgen of healthful properties is chocolate. Or, at least, dark chocolate which researchers now claim is good for you. Luckily it’s my favorite ingredient. The best S’more drops the Hershey’s for something Fair Trade at 72% (cocoa, that is).