July 31, 2017: Smithsonian.com has identified Adventism as the “secret ingredient” in the cornflakes created by brothers John Harvey and Will Keith Kellogg.
A July 28 article states that “among the ingredients in the Kelloggs’ secret recipe were the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist church.”
Adventism is framed as a “homegrown American faith that linked spiritual and physical health, and which played a major role in the Kellogg family’s life.”
The article terms Battle Creek, Michigan (the location of Adventism’s headquarters at the time), “the Vatican of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
Ellen White is called a “self-proclaimed prophetess.” She and her husband James are identified as the founders of the Adventist Church.
White’s health-related message stressing vegetarianism is given as context for Adventism’s emphasis on health and physical wellbeing starting in the 1860s.
The article chronicles the White’s growing belief in John Harvey Kellogg’s abilities and future potential. It noted that after excelling as a printer’s apprentice and later as an editor of the church’s health advice publication, Kellogg was sent to medical school by the Whites. The reason given for this was that the Whites wanted “a first-rate physician to run medical and health programs for their denomination.”
The Kellogg brothers are portrayed as running the Battle Creek Sanitarium when it was established after John’s completion of medical school.
John’s attention was described as being focused on the medical needs of patients and Will’s on the business side of the sanitarium.
A lack of healthy breakfast foods in 19th century America is established as the inspiration for John seeing “a need for a palatable, grain-based “health food” that was “easy on the digestion” and also easy to prepare.”
After much experimentation, cornflakes were what the he came up with as a result of a baking process that he called “dextrinization.”
The article states that although the cereal was intended as a health food in the 19th century, modern nutritionists point to the highly processed nature of the food as problematic for effective appetite control.
The 1906 split between the Kellogg brothers when Will left John who he considered a domineering older brother to start the Kellogg’s Cereal Company is described as being “based upon the brilliant observation that a nutritious and healthy breakfast would appeal to many more people” than simply sanitarium patients. This was especially true after Will added sugar and salt to the recipe.
The article concludes by calling the brothers “breakfast heroes” despite getting the science wrong with their less than optimally healthy cornflakes.