The Reverend Sylvester Graham (Suffield, Connecticut, America, 5th July 1794 – Northampton, Massachusetts, America, 11th September 1851)
I am fortunate to share my Henrietta Street abode with a colonial gentleman of no small culinary expertise. Indeed, he is something of a Pinetti in the kitchen and has never been one for a simple diet! That is in marked contrast to his fellow countryman, Reverend Sylvester Graham, who was born on this day in 1794.
Graham was a man who firmly believed that less is more. As he looked around at his fellow countrymen he regarded with horror their love of rich food and liquor, seeing in it a sure path to vice. Graham came from a Presbyterian family and followed his father into the ministry; along the way he developed some very clear ideas on the matter of food and concluded that a vegetarian diet was the cure for most ills, from alcoholism to unwanted sexual urges.
Graham's philosophy of life preached that alcohol should be avoided unless strictly required for its medicinal purposes, that personal hygiene was paramount and that above all else, masturbation was to be avoided for it would surely lead to madness. In order to help his followers, the Grahamites, lead a healthy and moral life, Graham developed his own diet.
The diet was one of mostly fresh fruit and vegetables, high in fibre and dairy products permitted in strict moderation. Meat was utterly outlawed as Graham believed it was the cause and therefore best avoided. The intended outcome of this eating plan was one of piety, morality and purity as well as a long, healthy life.
However, even the most ardent Grahamites soon found the tired unrelentingly bland and to this end, Graham developed the graham cracker, which his faithful consumed in large amounts, grateful for a little variation in their diet. In fact, Graham's followers were in for a somewhat unexpected shock when the Reverend died in 1851, aged just 57. The popularity of the diet dwindled yet the crackers went onto a life of their own and are still popular to this day.