The Reason Why We Pour Milk Over Cereal

iStock.com/tomasworks
iStock.com/tomasworks

Sometimes, if a movie or television show wants to communicate how unusual a character is, they’ll depict them pouring a box of cereal into a bowl and then adding some kind of disgusting liquid—orange juice, water, coffee, possibly alcohol. This is an easy way to illustrate someone's eccentricity because everyone knows only milk goes in cold cereal. With no exceptions. Even warm milk, which a small number of individuals enjoy, has to be more palatable than the alternatives.

But is milk the acceptable choice for cereal because it’s the best, or because of something else? Is there a reason we don’t simply drown Frosted Flakes in water and call it a day?

The state of our cereal bowls can be traced to the origins of cereal itself. Back in the mid-1800s, Americans were enjoying very hearty breakfasts of bacon, eggs, meat, and other foods that could easily show up on their dinner plates. Many complained of gastrointestinal upset, a condition that health experts (many of them self-appointed) began to refer to as dyspepsia. This ill-defined malady was thought to be the result of consuming massive meals in the morning. Advocates argued that breakfast should be lighter and healthier, comprised of what they considered simple and easily digestible foods.

One such proselytizer was James Caleb Jackson, a vegetarian who ran a sanitarium called Our Home on the Hillside in Dansville, New York. At the time, sanitariums for health were considered retreats and a way to adopt healthier eating and exercise habits. Jackson was a follower of Reverend Sylvester Graham, the inventor of graham crackers and a man who believed the crackers could help curb sexual appetites that flamed in the meat-eating population. In the 1870s, Jackson began to market a product he called granula—graham flour that was baked, crumbled, and baked a second time. The tiny pebbles of flour were hearty and filling.

There’s some debate over whether it was Jackson or his mother, Lucretia, who actually came up with granula. In her son’s newsletters dating back to 1867, Lucretia published recipes for what amounted to the same thing. But whichever Jackson came up with it, there was a problem: Eaten dry, the granula was like trying to swallow construction rubble. In the newsletter, Lucretia cautioned that the cereal had to be soaked in milk or warm water, presumably to make it palatable. Other accounts of granula have consumers soaking it in milk overnight in order to make it chewable. People sometimes referred to it as “wheat rocks.”

Granula developed a following, but it wasn’t until another sanitarium owner named John Harvey Kellogg mimicked the recipe that it truly caught on. Kellogg, who owned the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, offered granula for its purported health benefits but referred to it as granola to avoid any legal entanglements with Jackson. By 1889, Kellogg was selling two tons of granola a week. By 1903, more than 100 cereal companies were operating out of Battle Creek. Kellogg, of course, became famous for his far more appealing Corn Flakes (which he invented because he thought they would curb masturbation).

Even as cereal became more processed and softer, the tendency to soak it in milk never left the public consciousness. Milk was the perfect way to add moisture to the dry food without turning it into a completely soggy mess. Like cereal, milk was also synonymous with health, full of vitamins and calcium. In a 1922 newspaper ad for Corn Flakes, Kellogg’s exhorted the wonders of the combination, offering that:

“With cold milk and luscious fresh fruit, Kellogg’s are extra delightful—so crisp, and appetizing.”

One scientific study published in the Journal of Food Science in 2011 even found that the fat in milk attached itself to the surface of cereal, helping to ward off moisture and keep cereal crunchier for longer than if it were immersed in water.

Of course, milk is no longer required to soften the bricks Lucretia and John Jackson were peddling. Culturally, we’re still predisposed to keeping milk and cereal part of a two-hand breakfast option. Had Lucretia advocated for coffee, orange juice, or something else, things might have turned out differently. And much soggier.

Winner of Reynolds Wrap Contest Will Get Paid $10,000 to Sample the Country's Best BBQ

iStock/bhofack2
iStock/bhofack2

Which American city has the best barbecue is the root of one of the country's oldest culinary debates. As Thrillist reports, Reynolds Wraps is looking for one unbiased individual to travel the United States sampling barbecue ribs to determine which location makes them best—and the aluminum foil brand will pay them $10,000 for their trouble.

The winner of the 2019 Reynolds Wrap contest will take a two-week trip to "some of the most notorious BBQ cities," which last year included Nashville, Memphis, Kansas City, Dallas, and Austin. As Chief Grilling Officer, the smoked meat connoisseur will be tasked with identifying the best barbecue ribs in America, with Reynolds providing travel, lodging, and a $10,000 stipend for them and a guest to make the journey as smooth as possible. In return, the company asks that the CGO share grilling tips, techniques, and photos of their feasts to its website and social channels.

According to Reynolds Wrap, the position is perfect for anyone who doesn't mind "being paid to taste test some of the most delicious BBQ ribs across the country, posting envy-inducing pictures of your food and falling asleep every night dreaming about your next rack of ribs." Anyone can apply by submitting a photo of themselves grilling their favorite recipe along with 100 words pitching themselves for the job to careers@ReynoldsWrapCGO.com. The application deadline is June 19 and the barbecue tour starts sometime in August.

If you're not selected the contest winner, that shouldn't stop you from planning your own barbecue-themed road trip this summer. Here are some of the best barbecue cities in the country and where to eat in each one.

[h/t Thrillist]

8 Things You Might Not Know About LongHorn Steakhouse

Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Since its founding in 1981, LongHorn Steakhouse has become a familiar destination for those seeking sirloins and strip steaks. With more than 500 restaurants across the country and a 5 percent total sales growth in 2018 [PDF], LongHorn has definitely branded itself as a cut above in the steakhouse market. Dig into these facts about the dinner chain.

1. The original LongHorn location was once an adult bookstore.

George McKerrow Jr., a part-time bartender, opened the first LongHorn Steaks Restaurant & Saloon in Atlanta in August 1981. Before remodeling the building as a restaurant, though, it was an x-rated video- and bookstore. McKerrow added tablecloths, a jukebox, and bumper stickers to the walls, but he kept the back-lit booths that were once used for watching short peepshow videos.

2. LongHorn almost never got off the ground.

After LongHorn opened, it had a rough time taking off. "I had quit my previous job, fronted a lot of my own money, had a young daughter, and I was spending my days building that restaurant, literally, with my own two hands," McKerrow told The Atlantan in 2018. At the end of the first month, LongHorn was serving just a handful of meals a day, with McKerrow cooking, waiting tables, and washing the dishes.

3. A snowstorm saved the restaurant.

By January 1982, McKerrow was weeks away from shutting down LongHorn. But then one night, it started to snow—something that is a real rarity in Atlanta (and that particular storm is still known as the Snow Jam of '82). Drivers soon abandoned their cars on the roads, and LongHorn became a shelter from the freak blizzard. "We pulled a sign out front that said 'Drinks $1 While It Snows,'" Dave George, a former president of LongHorn Steakhouse told AirTran Magazine in 2006. "So all these people forced to pull over walked in 'til they filled the place up. And over the storm's three days, the steaks plus the genuinely friendly atmosphere surprised people, generating loyalty." By springtime, word-of-mouth had gotten LongHorn off the ground.

4. LongHorn really is all about the meat.

A slab of steak on a white plate with a knife
Yelp Inc, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It was McKerrow's passion for grilling and dream of serving the perfect steak that led him to open the restaurant. Today, menus revolve around including ribeyes, T-bones, their signature porterhouse, a slow-roasted prime rib, and Flo's Filet, which LongHorn says was named for a server who loved that particular cut.

5. McKerrow didn't stop with LongHorn.

After the success of LongHorn, McKerrow expanded his steakhouse empire by opening Capital Grille. In 2002, he teamed up with Ted Turner to launch Ted's Montana Grill, which he is still the president and CEO of today.

6. Employees must complete extensive training to become a LongHorn Grill Master.

Every LongHorn location has two or three employees who have completed the training to be considered "Grill Masters." Once these grill chefs are certifiably ready to tackle any meat order, the best of the best can compete in a company-wide "Steak Master" competition. During the yearly contest, multiple "grill-off" rounds narrow 5000 Grill Masters down to seven for the final showdown. If you live near Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, congratulations—your ribeye might have been seared by 2018 reigning champion Michelle Cerveney.

7. LongHorn has a grill hotline for holiday weekends.

To take some of the pressure off family grill masters during the Fourth of July, LongHorn launched a call-in helpline to answer anyone's burning questions about the art of preparing dinner over flames in 2013. Called the Grill Us Hotline, the program put 25 Grill Masters on call during the evenings of the holiday weekend. The hotline has since continued and been expanded to cover Memorial Day weekend as well.

8. On the web, LongHorn is in an imagined relationship with Denny's.

In one of the more bizarre corners of the internet exists a community of users, especially on blogging site Tumblr, that create anthropomorphized accounts for various restaurant brands. In June 2013, two months after Denny's launched their official Tumblr account, an unofficial Tumblr was created for LongHorn Steakhouse. Whoever ran the site, which has since been deleted, began making references to being in love with Denny's. As things tend to do on the internet, the idea took off and resulted in a community of users who spent their time shipping "Denhouse."

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