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The graham cracker (//, //, or //; also graham wafer) was invented in 1829 in Bound Brook, New Jersey, by Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham. The original graham cracker was made with graham flour, a combination of finely-ground unbleached-wheat flour with the wheat bran and germ coarsely-ground and added back in providing flavor. While graham crackers started out as a mild food, unsweetened or mildly sweetened, they are more commonly known as a sugar or honey sweetened baked good that approaches a cookie.
The graham cracker was originally conceived of as a health food as part of the Graham Diet, a regimen to suppress what he considered unhealthy carnal urges, the source of many maladies according to Graham. Reverend Graham would often lecture on "self-abuse", as masturbation was commonly called at the time. Graham would often say how these experiences were inspired by children eating crackers. One of his many theories was that one could curb one's sexual appetite by eating bland foods. Another man who held this belief was John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of the corn flakes cereal.
Most modern graham crackers are made mainly of the refined, bleached white flour to which the Rev. Graham was opposed, and others are made with blends that use unbleached, white flour as a base. Graham crackers have remained popular in North America as a snack food and breakfast cereal despite, or perhaps because of, the greater amounts of refined sugar (often mixed with honey) than in the original versions which may have been unsweetened, and far less graham flour, possibly without all the parts of the wheat included at all.
Some modern, commercial graham crackers could no longer be considered a health food. In fact some of these commercial "graham crackers" are more notable for being topped with a thick crust of cinnamon and sugar or having chocolate flavoring or coatings added. Technically, crackers are not really graham crackers unless they are made with graham flour, which is a hard (high protein) wheat flour in which the constituent bran, germ, and endosperm have been ground separately, the first two coarsely and the third finely.
Despite all of this, basic, modern graham crackers are common in America as a snack for young children, at home or at preschool, early elementary school, and other child care facilities, sometimes accompanied with fruit juice or milk.
Graham crackers, along with marshmallows (roasted or unroasted) and milk chocolate bars, are used to make a simple dessert or treat that has come to be called "s'mores" (a contraction of the phrase, "some more," as in "give us some more") in North America. S'mores are a popular camping food, often eaten around a campfire.
- Self Nutrition Facts and Data Webpage.
- "Is it true graham crackers were invented to cure the dread fever of lust?" on The Straight Dope website
- Information on Graham Flour and recipes
- Bound Brook - Home of the Graham Cracker (describing Rev. Graham as an "eccentric Presbyterian minister" who developed the Graham cracker "to cure the dread fever of lust.")