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Cracker History

Sunday, July 05, 2020

National Graham Cracker Day
Whether being used to make s'mores or pie, eaten in breakfast cereal or in the shape of teddy bears, or enjoyed right out of the box, Graham crackers are a ubiquitous snack food that you likely remember eating since you were a child. While the cookie-like food is usually enjoyed as a snack, this wasn't always the case.

Reverend Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian minister from Bound Brook, New Jersey, developed the graham cracker in the 1820s. He designed it to be a health food that was part of his "Graham Diet"—a diet he believed would eliminate lust and suppress all carnal urges, which he thought led to various maladies like insanity, epilepsy, spinal disease, and tuberculosis, and to everyday ailments like headaches and indigestion. His diet was vegetarian and also required abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and refined white flour. His graham crackers were made with graham flour, a coarsely ground and unsifted whole-wheat flour. The flour is brown and slightly nutty and sweet, and Graham used it to make graham bread and graham crackers. The crackers were biscuit-like and somewhat bland, as they didn't include any spices or sugar.

By the turn of the twentieth century, graham crackers were a staple in bakeries. In 1898, the National Biscuit Company—currently known as Nabisco—formed, and in 1925 they began producing Honey Grahams, which look like the graham crackers of today. The crackers were renamed Honey Maid in 1976. Although they have the name "cracker," graham crackers are sweet, not salty, and are similar to the American cookie or British biscuit. They are not made of the same coarsely ground and unrefined whole-wheat flour that Sylvester Graham used but are made with refined, bleached flour. They also have more sweeteners like honey and sugar compared to the original recipe.

Graham crackers of today are sometimes made with cinnamon and chocolate. For example, Honey Maid added a cinnamon variety in 1986. Still, there have been moves to make them healthier as well. Low-fat Honey Maid crackers debuted in 1995, and the whole grain in each serving was doubled in 2006. Graham crackers are celebrated today, on National Graham Cracker Day, regardless if they are healthy or unhealthy. Why on July 5? It's Sylvester Graham's birthday, of course!

Here are some ideas on how to celebrate the day:

* Eat some plain graham crackers.
* Eat some gram crackers topped with frosting.
* Make some s'mores.
* Make a graham cracker crust pie.
* Eat some Teddy Grahams.
* Make some homemade graham crackers.
* Make some other gram cracker recipes.

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