The birth of American breakfast cereals comes from the history of the Progressive Movement, which used pseudo-science to claim that changes in lifestyle and diet could lead to a better society. While diet and lifestyle are significant factors in health, the Progressive answer was more about controlling behavior through diet and lifestyle changes.
The insidious nature of this approach should stand as a lesson from history, warning us that the best intentions to control society often lead to dangerous results.
In this case the story of Grape Nuts is not so evil as it is comic. The use of this bland breakfast to stead the nerves of men comes for the belief that passions could be controlled through diet.
Other cereals, like Corn Flakes, were intended to control, the sexual passions of the young, hoping to prevent moral decay through sexual expression.
Another famous child’s snack, the Graham Cracker, started out with the same intent: to stifle the sexual appetites of the children of America in hopes of producing a moral and pure society.
While silly to consider by today’s standards, the efforts by Progressive reformers were inherently tyrannical, seeking to control through manipulation, anyone who did not conform to a moral standard of their own design. By parading these “cures” for moral decay as the product of science, Progressives were able to convince governments across the country to intrude into the lives of families and erect barriers to their freedom, even ultimately imprisoning some for violations of morality.
History is a means to understand the errors of the past, and the lesson of the Progressives is that good intentions can lead to terrible outcomes. Grape Nuts may still be a breakfast choice for many, but the intended outcome has long been abandoned. Thankfully we can eat breakfast without fear that it may reflect badly on us to those who claim to know better.
Look for more on the evils of the Progressive Movement on Historydojo in the future. Grape Nuts may seem harmless, but it is just the beginning of a darker tale in American History.
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