I’m re-reading The Road to Wellville, a historic novel (and movie) based on the life of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. I would credit Kellogg with launching vegetarianism into popular culture. While there had been American vegetarian advocates before him (like Dr. Graham of Oberlin college, inventor of the cracker by the same name) Kellogg’s health spa, The Battle Creek Sanitarium, made it fashionable. “The San,” as it was nicknamed, was frequented by the wealthy and famous. It treated all your ills with “scientific living” and “biologic eating.”
What appeals to me about Kellogg’s food is it’s combination of the cream-and-butter French cuisine that was so popular at the turn of the century; early vegetarianism; and the foundations of the modern American diet.
Although many of Kellogg’s ideas were bunk (and a few even dangerous, like radium treatments) many of them still hold up. Kellogg’s diet focuses on fruits and vegetable, whole grains, and replacing proteins lost by excluding meat. He invented the breakfast cereal, launched peanut butter into the mainstream, and introduced “exotic” foods like yogurt and seaweed to America. He invented meat substitutes like Protose, which were not dissimilar from the black bean burgers and tofu hot dogs of today.
It was all a huge departure from the eating habits of the day. But Kellogg was also working around the same time as the release of The Jungle, Upton Sinclair’s expose on the meat packing industry in Chicago. In a time before the FDA, it may have not been such a bad idea to eat vegetarian. Sinclair and his wife frequented the San themselves.
After reading about Kellogg’s food, I became curious to try it. I tracked down a cookbook of recipes from the Battle Creek Sanitarium, The New Cookery
by Lenna Frances Cooper (available in its entirety online
) and I’m planning a dinner party in March. The menu will be as follows:
Salpicon of Fruits
Radishes with Butter
Toasted Pine Nuts
Potatoes a la Maitre d’Hotel
Asparagus Tips on Toast
Apple and Celery Salad
The Queen of Puddings
Neufchatel Cheese on Wafers
However, I don’t know if this single event would do Kellogg’s diet justice. He promoted it as a way of life, not just limited to the walls of his Sanitarium, that would “exonerate the bowels” and flush the poisons from your system.
So I’ve been considering immersing myself in his diet for a week, to see if my bowels exonerate. What do you think?