|The graham crackers of almost-yesteryear: Tiny
Trapeze (top) and Starr Ridge. Photography by
Melody Lan | THE NIBBLE.
CAPSULE REPORT: One might lust after the perfect graham cracker without knowing that graham crackers were actually invented to control lust, by The Reverend Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), an eccentric Presbyterian minister from Connecticut. The Reverend believed that physical lust was the cause of maladies, from biggies, like consumption, spinal disease, epilepsy and insanity, to everyday indispositions such as headaches and indigestion.
His “cure” was to suppress carnal urges, for which he prescribed a strict vegetarian diet and the avoidance of alcohol, tobacco and refined white flour. Toward this end, he invented the eponymous graham flour, from whence came the graham cracker. Graham flour is a form of whole wheat flour in which the bran and germ layers are returned and mixed in, producing a coarse, brown flour with a nutty and slightly sweet flavor. (Grape Nuts cereal is made of graham flour.)
Many graham crackers have followed, but today, the commercial version is a pallid affair. For graham crackers with gusto, try the homemade taste of Tiny Trapeze and Laura’s. As cookies go, these are not a diet disaster to your New Year’s resolutions: Both brands weigh in at about 50 calories apiece. Two cookies with a glass of milk or a cup of tea or coffee can be extremely soul-satisfying. Read the full review below.
Graham Cracker History
The Reverend Graham created the flat, crisp cookie, which became known as the graham cracker (did “cookie” sound too lustful?), in 1829. Sweetened with honey, it was promoted as a health food; in fact, the Reverend, who also advocated fresh air, exercise and a good night’s sleep, is acknowledged as a forerunner of the modern health movement. More than 30 years after his death, in 1882, graham cracker recipes began to appear in cookbooks and were produced commercially. In 1898 the National Biscuit Company began marketing Nabisco Graham Crackers, outlasting all competitors. Their Honey Maid line, introduced in 1925, used honey (part of Reverend Graham’s original recipe) and made graham crackers even more popular.
Some of us remember when Nabisco Graham Crackers tasted better than they do today—as did so many things from the grocery store back in the happy days before cheaper food science substitutions took the place of butter, whole milk, brown sugar and cocoa butter in so many commercial recipes. Today’s Nabisco Honey Grahams are scarcely worthy of being crumbled into a cheesecake crust. And they’re made with some ingredients that might make Reverend Graham sue to have his name removed from the box.
Like Proust searching for the madeleines of his youth (we do a lot of that kind of searching here at THE NIBBLE), we looked for quite a few years for a great graham cracker. We found it in New England, Reverend Graham’s old stomping grounds, developed by a specialty food company in greater Boston called Tiny Trapeze.
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