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National Cereal Day

Cereal is celebrated and eaten today! Cereal, in general, may be a name for any grain, such as wheat, barley, oats, or corn. But since the end of the nineteenth century in America, cereal has usually meant breakfast cereal—now the most popular breakfast food in the country. It gained popularity at that time, as a healthier alternative to other foods. Until the 1860s, breakfast was dominated by eggs, bacon, and sausage. Reformers began preaching that eating too much meat was both physically and spiritually harmful, and cereal was looked at as a nutritious remedy of sorts.

The first American cooked cereals were corn-mush porridges that had been adapted from Native Americans. Quaker Oats, made from hulled oats, was created in 1877. Cream of Wheat appeared in 1894. The first cold cereal was invented by Dr. James Caleb Jackson, and was made of hard, bland bran nuggets that had to be soaked overnight and were hard to digest. It was called granula.

John Kellogg, head of the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, gave grains to his patients, and then created packaged cereals. He first called his cereal granola, but then changed its name to Granose, as it was too close in name to Jackson's granula. He later made Granose flakes. In the 1890s, John Kellogg, along with his brother William, made boiled wheat and inadvertently left it out overnight and found it was stale the next morning. They then rolled it and saw it made flakes. They tried it with corn and saw the same thing happened. Their new creation was Kellogg's Corn Flakes, one of the most popular and enduring breakfast cereals.

After suffering a nervous breakdown, Charles William Post went to Kellogg's sanitarium in 1893. Subsequently, he started his own breakfast foods company, and in 1897 started selling Grape-Nuts, made of wheat and malted barley. He started selling Elijah Manna in 1904, but after the name was criticized, he started calling them as Post Toasties in 1906.

In 1892, Henry Perky, a lawyer from Denver, traveled to Watertown, New York, and along with William Ford, discovered a process to press wheat shreds into biscuits. He called them Shredded Wheat. They were bought out by the National Biscuit Company in 1928, a company now known as Nabisco.

Wheaties were created accidentally in 1921. A Minneapolis health theorist name Mennenberg spilled gruel on a hot stove and found it made a crisp wheat flake. Washburn Crosby Company, later known as General Mills, bought the rights and introduced Wheaties in 1924. General Mills introduced a corn-puff cereal called Kix in 1937, and a ring-shaped oat cereal named Cheerioats in 1941; their name was changed to Cheerios in 1945.

Shredded Ralston may not be a familiar breakfast cereal name today, but that is the original name of Wheat Chex, introduced by the Ralston Purina Company of St. Louis in 1935. They were followed by Rice Chex in 1950, and by Corn Chex in 1958.

The first sweetened cereal, Ranger Joe Popped Wheat Honnie, was introduced in 1939, and the idea of cereal as solely a health food changed. This began the trend of sweetened cereals being marketed to children. Radio and television ads began being used to popularize cereal, and cartoon characters were introduced. Some cereals were also named after cartoon or movie characters, such as Count Chocula and Frankenberry.

In the 1960s, breakfast cereals began being criticized for having little nutritional value on their own, and vitamins and minerals began being added. Sugar in children's cereals was also cut back. There also was an increase in interest in natural grain cereals—those without cane sugar or additives. Although, a lot of them did have honey, brown sugar, raisins, or other dried fruit.

About half of Americans start their day with a bowl of cereal. Annual sales of breakfast cereal are 7.7 billion dollars, and 2.7 billion boxes of cereal are sold each year. With so much cereal being eaten, it is only fitting that there is a day to celebrate it!

How to Observe

Celebrate the day by eating cereal! Try sampling some of the best breakfast cereals of all time. Eat cereal plain, have it with milk, or use it to make something, such as Rice Krispies Treats. If there ever was a day to eat cereal for every meal, this is it!

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