I recently saw someone making a gooey dessert that involved heaping chocolate, nuts, and gobs of caramel on top of graham crackers. It’s a wonder Sylvester Graham didn’t come back from the dead to rage against such a thing.
If you don’t know much about Sylvester Graham, you’re not alone. Almost forgotten today, he was The health food guru in the early 19th century. Graham railed against highly processed, commercially made white bread and promoted the consumption of home-baked bread, made with whole wheat flour. He was also a passionate vegetarian. So far, so unremarkable, especially today.
But passionate is the key word. Graham lectured and wrote about the need for
everyone to abstain not only from white bread and meat, but also from spicy foods like pepper, ginger, and cinnamon. His regimen banned alcohol, most dairy foods, coffee, tea, and what he considered excessive sexual activity. His lectures on the dangers of sex were so explicit that some women in the audience fainted.
He liked some things – cold showers, hard mattresses, exercise. This was not a fun guy. Even Ralph Waldo Emerson, not exactly a sybarite, called Graham the “poet of bran and pumpkins.” The tough regimen didn’t do him much good since he was just 57 when he died.
Ironically, graham crackers were among the first crackers used to make ice cream sandwiches. He would have been appalled. He also would have hated the idea of cinnamon graham crackers, never mind graham cracker pie crusts. But s’mores would have been the most upsetting to him, combining as they do soft, sweet white marshmallows and chocolate candy with sugary crackers bearing his name.
S’mores are said to have been invented by Girl Scouts when they toasted marshmallows over their camp fires and then squished them between Hershey-bar-topped crackers.
The hot marshmallow melts the chocolate, softens the crackers, and makes everyone want some more. Try saying some more with a mouthful of marshmallow, chocolate, and graham crackers and you’ll understand why they’re called s’mores.
In winter, lacking a camp fire, I like to substitute ice cream, preferably hazelnut, for the toasted marshmallows. I toast the graham crackers briefly for warmth and sometimes I spread some Nutella on them instead of a chocolate bar.
If you really want to infuriate the spirit of Sylvester Graham, use those oh-so-spicy cinnamon graham crackers.
You can have some multi-grain bread and water tomorrow.
Photo by Evan-Amos