The invention of cornflakes is a tale colored by creativity, chance, fanaticism, a family split and American capitalism.
The two main characters are the famous Kellogg brothers, John and Will. John was a doctor. He ran the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan in the late 1800s. He was a champion of healthy living and eating practices, some controversial, some avant garde. Some weren't very nice, even though he meant well. Will was the businessman of the pair, helping to run the sanitarium, which functioned as sort of a health spa. Their story was lampooned in the 1994 movie "The Road to Wellville."
In the 1890s, they collaborated on a project to develop more nutritious foods. That spawned the accidental invention of modern-day breakfast cereals.
In April 1894, so the story goes, some cooked wheat was left to sit in the laboratory while the Kelloggs were drawn away by pressing matters at the sanitarium. The wheat turned stale, but not wanting to waste it, they continued to process it through rollers. Instead of long sheets of dough, flakes came out.
The flakes were toasted and served to patients. The reaction was surprisingly positive, so the Kelloggs pursued and obtained a patent for the wheat flakes under the name Granose. Experiments with other grains led to rice flakes and cornflakes. (By the way, John coined the word "granola" for another of his breakfast mixes.)
The Kellogg brothers parted ways in 1906. Will decided to mass-market the Kellogg cereals in response to growing competition. John stayed with the sanitarium and promoted his causes. And the morning bowl of cereal has become a way of life in the U.S.
The use of cornflakes has expanded beyond the cereal bowl, from casseroles to oven-fried chicken, sweet treats and more. This brings us around to a recipe request from Jackie Schimenz of Mount Pleasant. She used to make a peanut butter and cornflakes treat for her grandsons, who are now in college.
Ann Bell of North Charleston writes, "Here's a cornflake cookie recipe that I've had since childhood. They're easy and very good — still one of my favorite cookies. I store mine in the refrigerator in a container with a tight-fitting lid so they stay nice and crunchy. If they aren't kept cool, they'll start melting and get soggy."
Peanut Butterscotch Cookies
1/2 cup peanut butter-crunchy or smooth
2 (6-ounce) packages butterscotch chips
6 cups cornflakes
Melt peanut butter and butterscotch chips together. Pour mixture over cornflakes and stir gently to coat. Drop by teaspoonsful onto waxed paper. Refrigerate to harden.
Thanks to Miriam Peacock of Summerville for a similar recipe.
Recipes from Alice Threadgill of Summerville and Hazel Moorer of Moncks Corner go in another direction. "Long ago a neighbor gave me this recipe named (for some strange reason) Cabbage Candy," Alice wrote. "I don't make it very often because I can't resist nibbling until I have eaten way too much!"
Alice also notes, "I found it easiest to measure out and put cornflakes in a 9x13 pan and then pour the syrup over them, or you can stir flakes into the mixture and then put in the pan. You may need to flatten this out with waxed paper or a small rolling pin. ... Cut into squares after 5 minutes. If you wait too long, it is hard to cut."
Cornflake (Cabbage) Candy
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
8 cups cornflakes
Bring sugar and syrup to a boil and add peanut butter. Let mixture return to a boil again and then pour over the cornflakes.
Elizabeth McWhirter of Summerville also called with a recipe named Lifesaving Cookies. The ingredients are the same as above, but the amounts differ for two of them: 1 1/2 cups peanut butter and only 4 cups cornflakes. And, once the cornflakes are mixed in, the cookies are dropped by teaspoonsful onto wax paper on a cookie sheet. Then they should be chilled in the refrigerator.
Go with the grain
It was beginning to look hopeless for Francis Darwin of West Ashley, who asked about a recipe called "Rice O'Brien." Francis recalled black olives and green onions being in the dish. A reader turned up a recipe in a cookbook, "La Meilleure De La Louisiane." The recipe was attributed to the Rice Council of America. That led me to the USA Rice Federation's Web site, www.usarice.com, a great source of recipes. There it was:
Makes 6 servings
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 cups cooked rice (cooked in chicken broth)
3 tablespoons diced pimientos
1/4 cup sliced pitted ripe olives (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
Cook onions and green pepper in butter until tender crisp. Add rice, pimientos, olives and salt. Heat, tossing lightly with a fork to keep rice light and fluffy.
I also heard from Anne J. Smith of Santee, who says this rice recipe with black olives might be adaptable. "It does not call for onions but they could be added. This is taken from a 1969 'Cookbook of Favorite Recipes of Episcopal Churchwomen Casseroles.' "
Sandy's Rice With Sour Cream
Yields 4-5 servings
2 tablespoons chicken stock base or 1 chicken bouillon cube
1 teaspoon seasoned salt or Beau Monde seasoning
1 1/4 cups hot water
1/2 cup (raw) rice
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon dill seed
1/2 cup sliced ripe olives
2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds
Add stock and seasoning to water; bring to a boil. Add rice; cook until rice is done. Fluff with a fork. Add sour cream, dill seed and olives; mix well. Place in buttered casserole. Bake in 300-degree oven for 20 minutes. Add almonds on top just before serving.
Debbie Berry of James Island responded to the request of Brenda Doebler of North Charleston. Brenda has been looking to replace a Salisbury steak recipe she lost, and Debbie shares this one from her grandmother:
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup milk
Flour for dredging
2 tablespoons oil or butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 can beef consomme
1 (4-ounce) can mushrooms
Combine first eight ingredients (through the milk) and mix well. Divide into 8 patties. Dip in flour and brown in 2 tablespoons oil or butter. Remove from pan and stir 3 tablespoons flour into drippings. Add 1 can consomme and mushrooms. Stir until thickened. Return meat to gravy in pan and simmer 30 minutes before serving.
Who's got the recipe?
--Spread the word for Deborah Bateman of Charlotte. She is looking for a recipe for Confederate Game Pie from the closed Moultrie Tavern. Do any readers have a lead?
--A James Island reader seeks recipes for green pea salads.
--A caller asked if readers would share their best shrimp and pasta recipes.