No Grapes, No Nuts

Hey, Matt:

What's up with Grape Nuts? There are no nuts or grapes in the entire box. Not even raisins. Who named this cereal, and why did they think it was a good idea to give it such a deceiving name?

-- David, via e-mail

Deceiving? Like "Lucky Charms" is more honest. How lucky did you ever get after eating a bowl of that stuff? Okay, you're right; no grapes, no nuts. Did you expect a box of grapes and nuts when you opened it? C.W. Post, the guy who invented the cereal and marketed the heck out of it 110 years ago, would have argued that he was giving you just that. Sort of.

Grape Nuts cereal was invented by Post to feed to the feeble and ailing Americans who came to his health spa for a cure. (The Road to Wellville was based on the life of Post's competitors, the Kelloggs.) Health-food gurus of that era developed shredded wheat, corn flakes, and a whole raft of wheat, corn, and bran breakfast foods to revitalize what they saw as a nation of constipated loafers. What we needed was some bulk in our diet to clean out our collective pipes and put the spring back in our step. Pork products were the most popular wake-up foods on American tables back then.

Post mixed wheat and malted barley together, baked it, boxed the resulting gravel, and named it Grape Nuts -- "grape" because it contained maltose, once known as grape sugar, and "nuts" because baking gave the pebbles a nutty taste. He might just as well have called them Mr. Post's Colon Cleanser or Rocks in a Box. About the same time he marketed his own brand of corn flakes that he called Elijah's Manna (now Post Toasties). I hope his wife named the kids.

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