Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Henry and the Corn Flakes
My Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner, was born in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, California on 11 June 1852. When he was a small child, his family moved to Beaver, Beaver, Utah due to what is referred to as the "Utah War." When he was 25 years old he married Eliza Ellen Parkinson and they were called as "missionaries" for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to settle along the Little Colorado River in Northern Arizona in a town now called Joseph City. He stayed there in Joseph City, Navajo, Arizona the rest of his life.

The story is told that two of Henry Tanner's sons took him to a railroad restaurant in Holbrook to try corn flakes -- a new item on the market. He ate them without a word. After they were done, he got in the wagon without a word. His sons were dying to hear his opinion and finally asked, "Well, what did you think?" Henry replied, "The cream would have been better by itself."

Living in a small, isolated settlement on the Colorado Plateau beginning in 1877, the families had to raise almost all their own food and prepare it, as we would say, from scratch. If they wanted to eat, they had to plant it or raise it, pick it or kill it, and then prepare it. I experienced some of this when I also lived in another small town in Northern Arizona. We raised a significant part of the food we ate in a large garden and my father would go rabbit hunting which would then be skinned and eaten by the family. I remember one Thanksgiving, my father won a turkey in a "turkey shoot." This was a competition where the men would shoot at targets for a score and the high score won a turkey. The problem was that it was still very much alive so my father had to perform the duty of "preparing the turkey" with a hatchet. Unfortunately, the turkey, minus its head, ran around for a while scaring us children so much we climbed up on the roof of the house to get away. I have no idea how we got on the roof.

When I was not much older, we moved to the "big city" of Phoenix, Arizona. Well, it wasn't that big at the time, but it did become the sixth largest city in the United States. I retained the perspective of raising food in a home garden. Once I got married and we lived in a house, we immediately began planting gardens. Our whole backyard was one huge garden and fruit trees. This was a contrast to how I lived once I moved to the city. Of course, living in Phoenix, we had citrus trees; grapefruit, oranges and lemons mostly. But we did not have gardens. Dry, packaged cereal was part of my staple diet. Unlike my Great-grandfather, I happened to like prepared cereal and I ate a lot of cornflakes and other cereal, usually with milk and a lot of sugar.

Because I read everything I could get my hands on and for other reasons, I also learned a great deal about the history of prepared cereals, including cornflakes. There is, of course, an "official" history of the origin of cornflakes appropriately from Here is the short version.
1898 — In a fortunately failed attempt at making granola, our company’s founder, W.K. Kellogg, and his brother, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, changed breakfast forever when they accidentally flaked wheat berry. W.K. kept experimenting until he flaked corn, and created the delicious recipe for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. 
1906 — W.K. Kellogg opened the “Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company” and carefully hired his first 44 employees. Together they created the initial batch of Kellogg’s® Corn Flakes® and brought to life W.K.’s vision for great-tasting, better-for-you breakfast foods.
How do you "flake wheat berries?" Well, nice of you to ask. The wheat berry is the entire kernel (except for the hull) of the wheat including the bran, germ and endosperm. Above is an image showing the parts of the wheat kernel. Wheat berries and cornflakes are made by conditioning, steaming and the flaking the kernels by compressing them through smooth rollers. I am guessing that this is not something you will choose to do routinely in your kitchen. We still buy packaged cereal, but I seldom eat it anymore. I have cut my intake of sugar way down and most of the cereal sold is full of sugar.

What does all this have to do with genealogy? Well, I have come to realize that how and what I eat is largely an inheritance from my family and now, my wife's family and as long as we talk about and research our families, we are going to end up talking about food.

No comments:

Post a Comment