Kellogg’s: Sitting on a Corn Flake, Part 1

“They’re great!” – Tony the Tiger

I’m sure you’ve had a bowl of corn flakes at some point in your life. Hell, I still shudder at thought of those last mushy, tasteless flakes floating in the milk at the bottom of the bowl, my mom staring over my shoulder imploring me to finish every last bite. Because people are starving in Africa, she’d say.

But did you ever stop to think about the man that invented Kellogg’s Corn Flakes? It’s one of those stories were the truth really is stranger than fiction.

John Harvey Kellogg was no ordinary man, you see. Dressed in his trademark white suite, a handlebar mustache thick as the Amazon jungle hiding his broad square face and thin-lipped, impish grin, he cut an imposing, cult-like figure, the pied piper of the bowels. For John Kellogg, clean bowels and abstinence – from sex to meat to spices – was the key to the Temple of Health, and industrial magnates and celebrities alike flocked to his health resort in Battle Creek, Michigan in search of the cure. You had to live right and eat right.

Known as the Battle Creek Sanitarium, Kellogg transformed the institution from an unassuming farmhouse run by Seventh-day Adventists to a towering Italian Renaissance Revival structure, with grand, intimidating archways, hand-painted murals, and all the latest in medical technology, particularly in regards to enemas. Then the Great Depression hit, and the building ended up in receivership. But by then, John’s legacy was secure.

“Meat is, in fact, even under most favorable conditions, the most unclean thing that comes upon our tables. This naturally results from the fact that a dead animal, like a dead human, is a corpse.” – John Harvey Kellogg

Rochester, New York, December 25,

Ellen White was about to have another vision.

“Glory! Glory! Glory!”

Her eyes rolled back in her head and she fell to the floor in a heap, the folds of her billowing navy dress seeming to swallow her body.

The room grew quiet in anticipation. The smell of sweat and nerves permeated the air.

Then she shot straight up, stiff as a rod, like she was a loose floorboard that someone had stepped on in the wrong spot. Her eyes were vacant, her breathing shallow to nonexistent, her stiff, high cheekbones abnormally relaxed. Like the parting of the seas her wide mouth opened and she spoke in dreamy, reverent tones to the astonished bystanders.

“Gluttony… gluttony is the great sin. It makes slaves of men and women. His truth, His Word is beclouded by our lustful appetites. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. We… we… we must do the work of reform. It is right. It is good.”

Ellen paced the room, her husband James clearing the room as Ellen made mysterious gestures into the empty air.

“Is God a man with two arms and legs like me? Does He have eyes, a head? Does He have bowels? Well I do, and that makes me more wonderful than He is!” – John Harvey Kellogg

Less than a year later, Ellen and her congregation of Seventh-day Adventists – named for their strict adherence to respecting the Sabbath as a day of rest – opened the Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek with great fanfare. Water cures, strict diets, and regular exercise and sleep were the order day, led by the respected Dr. Horatio Lay.

At the time John was a teenager, living with his parents in the town’s Adventist community and apprenticing at a nearby Adventist publishing house. Life was tough, full of misinformation, superstition and dogma, the work hard, the buildings cramped. Little did he know that one day he’d run the Western Health Reform Institute himself and change Battle Creek forever.

“Take the sunflower, for example. It looks straight at the sun. It watches and follows the sun all day long, looking straight at it all the time; and as the sun dips down below the horizon, you see that sunflower still looking at it; and as the sun turns around and comes up in the morning, the flower is looking toward the sun rising. It is God in the sunflower that makes it do this.” – John Harvey Kellogg


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