Foodie Eats Her Cereal

Yesterday, March 7, was National Cereal Day. Since I hail from Battle Creek, Michigan, the “Cereal Capital of the World,” it was only fitting to celebrate on social media. Hashtags and everything.

Foodies today are going to answer a couple questions for me. What’s your favorite cereal? (Hot, cold, homemade, weird, whatever.) What was your favorite when you were a kid?

We’ve long been told breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I admit to enjoying breakfast foods any time of day. Sometimes when I was young, on a Sunday evening after being busy all day and having fixed a big Sunday dinner, Mom would say about supper, “Just have a bowl of cereal.”

Reading the side panels of cereal boxes, I learned to sound out big words. I had no idea what riboflavin was, but I knew how to pronounce it.

I have plenty of recipes for homemade cereals (and other traditional breakfast foods), but you might want to try this granola recipe from All Recipes. If you’re partial to pancakes and waffles for breakfast, try this strawberry syrup.

Battle Creek’s history with cereal production is well-known here in the Mitten State. At one time, there was over 100 different cereal companies operating in our fair city. For trivia buffs, here’s some cool information about cereal manufacturing and how it all began.

Ferdinand Schumacher, a German immigrant, began the cereal revolution in 1854 with a hand oats grinder in the back room of a small store in Akron, Ohio. His German Mills American Oatmeal Company was the nation’s first commercial oatmeal manufacturer. In 1877, Schumacher adopted the Quaker symbol, the first registered trademark for a breakfast cereal.

Granula, the first breakfast cereal, was invented in the United States in 1863 by James Caleb Jackson, operator of Our Home on the Hillside, which was later replaced by the Jackson Sanatorium in Dansville, New York. The cereal never became popular since it was inconvenient as the heavy bran nuggets needed soaking overnight before they were tender enough to eat.

The cereal industry rose from a combination of sincere religious beliefs and commercial interest in health foods. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg experimented with granola. He boiled some wheat, rolled it into thin films, and baked the resulting flakes in the oven; he acquired a patent in 1891. In 1895 he launched Cornflakes, which overnight captured a national market.

In 1906, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s brother, William K. Kellogg, after working for John, broke away, bought the corn flakes rights from his brother and set up the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. His signature on every package became the company trademark and assurance of quality.

Charles W. Post introduced Grape-nuts in 1898 and soon followed with Post Toasties.

Have a bowl of cereal for breakfast some time to celebrate a pantry staple that appears in one form or another all over the world. Eat hardy.

 

 

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“I Think I Am Happier Than I Think I Am”- A Book Review

By Reverend James O’Leary, copyright 2002, Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools, 180 pages

Here is a book with a title that, if you cannot relate to it, you only need read a few of the short essays and you soon will. These “pastor’s thoughts” wake you up to just how good life is even if a few bad moments come in an otherwise pretty good day.

When Father Jim O’Leary first released the book, I was so happy to see it. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing first-hand his words of wisdom, humor and kindness. Reading the book again after many years, I hear his voice and see that twinkle in his eye.

Father Jim shares insights into Catholic traditions, travels in Europe associated with his calling, missions trips, parenting, growing up in Michigan, and eventually serving there. He tells stories about simple living and what he learns from everyone he meets. While he may have rubbed elbows with some pretty important people, it’s obvious he’s energized by conversations with folks like you and me.

Each essay is a reflection of Jim’s heart. Like this:

“Our world is so full of people who are planning to change the world. They are simply waiting for the right time. I do believe that I must include myself in this group. We wait and wait and the right moment never comes, and we never make our contribution to the improvement of our world. Opportunities to serve people surround us. The right time is now. Always, the time is now.”

I haven’t met many people as humble as Jim O’Leary. Of course, he’d get a sour look on his face, glance at his feet, and shake his head if he heard me say that. And that’s because, as I knew him, he really was a self-effacing man.

One day, during one of our brief meetings, I wanted to get a rise out of him. “Jim,” I said, “since I’m not Catholic, instead of calling you ‘Father,’ can I just call you ‘Dad?’”

He did laugh. “Just don’t call me what my parishioners call me,” he said.

“What’s that?”

In a matter-of-fact style and with a straight face, he said…No, I better not. It wasn’t a nice name. But I’m sure he was joking with me as well. That twinkle in his eye, you see.

“I Think I Am Happier Than I Think I Am” is filled with stuff like this. No, not bad words. But his way of seeing things. His constant love for God and for people. His explanations about Jesus and His earthly ministry. Metaphors for life derived from everyday observations. Father Jim doesn’t try in his book to convert anyone, but it’s plain he hopes you’ll believe in the One who was born, preached the Good News, and died to save us from ourselves. Jim always admitted that he needed saving from himself and his stories reveal his gratitude for God’s mercy.

The essays are gleaned from his columns originally published in the weekly St. Joseph Parish bulletin. Jim was a priest in the Battle Creek parish where I live. He was not my priest; as I mentioned, I’m not Catholic. But he was a good friend. The last time I saw him, we were both at a local American Cancer Society Relay for Life. Both cancer survivors, we met on the track and shared our news, chatting like old friends do.

I’m so glad I read the book again. It feels like we’re having another of those chats. Gosh, I miss him.