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The Victorian Evils of Breakfast Cereal

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Posted on : 12:08 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

The first time I was introduced to the history of breakfast cereal was through the movie The Road to Wellville, which was a pretty weird movie about Victorian sexuality and also a funny character sketch of Dr. John Kellogg, who invented corn flakes.


When I first watched this movie, I was definitely a cold cereal kind of person. I loved my Cheerios with a little bit granola sprinkled on the top with some cold milk (later soymilk).  I used to eat HUGE bowlfuls.  The serving suggestion on the box was about 1/3 of what I usually ate in a morning.  The problem was that it didn't make me full and with my extreme metabolism I had to eat a couple of hours later.

You see, the Victorians believed that constipation was God's punishment for eating meat. They ate pretty much all meat, and not being able to get veggies reliably all year, they were grateful for the invention of cornflakes, which were little better than a rock-hard piece of cardboard.  

Cereals today are very expensive, and most of them have tons of sugar.  The serving suggestion on the box is actually pretty small, and if you consider that many, many children's cereals have more sugar per serving than a glazed donut, it's not really the health product of the future, is it?

I don't like to spend lots of time making breakfast, however. I wake up with my stomach growling and hands shaking.  So here's my list of quick, healthy breakfasts:

Whole wheat toast with scrambled eggs.  The secret to quick, dairy free scrambled eggs is to just heat up the pan until it's pretty hot, with a little bit of olive oil.  Then break the eggs into the pan and stir them up.  Let them sit for a minute, then stir them up again.  Don't let them overcook - this should only really take 5-8 minutes.

Toast with natural peanut butter.

Fruit and peanut butter and toast.  When I just eat fruit I don't get full, so I have to add bread.  But grapefruit, stawberries, kiwi, and apples with peanut butter are all very good, especially with a cup of green tea.

Oatmeal.  Not the packet kind with all the sugar, but the Quaker quick oats kind in the bag.   I have a conundrum right now figuring out what kind of milk to have with it, but it's good.  It's pretty slow to make it on the stove, and I don't have a microwave, but if you do use a microwave the secret to making creamy oatmeal is a very tall ceramic bowl.  If the bowl is very deep, the oatmeal will rise while it's cooking and keep in the moisture.   If you do it that way it tastes pretty close to stove top oatmeal.  Cream of what is also equally good in my opinion. :)

It seems a little funny to me that we are still so hung up on such a Victorian idea like breakfast cereal, when it is obviously not the healthiest or cheapest option for breakfast.  Nor is it the most sustainable option.  I think on the other hand people have bought into the idea that in order to be healthy they have to eat these health-labeled packaged foods in order to lose weight or live longer.  The truth is that whole foods and healthy fats are what does it, and breakfast cereal has neither.

Comments (4)

I grew up on cereal, but by the time I moved out of home (21) I realised the evils of cerealand went straight to porridge (oatmeal).

My brekkie now is either porridge or toast + something.

For most of my life I have eaten porridge or muesli/granola, but always with milk. I wanted to reduce and eventually cut out all dairy, and agonized over what to use instead. Porridge made with water, in my opinion, is foul, and muesli would be no different. I took a little paradigm shift and tried a fruit smoothie on my muesli. Wow, it is now a pleasure to eat it, not just a chore. Definitely worth a try. I make it with orange juice for a reasonably liquid base, a kiwi and a banana.

This pretty much covers my list of quick healthy breakfast also, but I'd like to add a couple more.

I really like boiled eggs with toast and grapefruit (I have an egg-cup collection)because I can get other things done while the eggs are boiling!

I also spent 6 months in Finland and am a huge fan of what they have for breakfast - a kind of toast buffet with the toaster on the table, and little plates of things to put on your toast. So butter or substitute, and cheese and cucumbers and pickled beets and cold meats and you pile any number of delicious combinations on there. I don't often do the full spread, but I do love my rye toast piled with savoury combos of veggies and protein.

I also enjoy a nice bowl or cup of miso broth with toast in the morning.

Wow, looking at this, I certainly seem to be a very toast-centred breakfaster (I also need more volume than just fruit in the morning).

Wow so many great ideas! Thanks!

I got some coconut milk and we're going to try that in our oatmeal. :)