( Originally Published 1917 )
Evolution of the breakfast. The breakfast of today bears little resemblance to that of twenty or thirty years ago. In fact, a great industry has grown out of the changes that have come over our morning meal within that period. Many millions of dollars are now spent every year for breakfast foods either unknown or neglected a decade ago.
Probably no other meal has been so completely revolutionized by modern inventions as breakfast. In the main it has been changed from a heavy and unattractive offering of food to a light and whole-some meal. This evolution of the morning meal has meant more perhaps to the children than to any other members of the family. Is it not true that the refinement of breakfast foods has made the break-fast hour almost as much "the children's hour" as is twilight at the close of day? Because it has had much to do with the better nourishment of children, the modern breakfast food has brought about a wholesome change in the diet of practically all civilized peoples.
If the millions of dollars this country expends every year for breakfast foods had been paid for the research work necessary to develop them, that investment would have been justified because of the beneficial effect of this form of food upon the world of children and invalids.
The beginnings of breakfast food. Until a few years ago "porridge" and mush were about the only forms in which grains were commonly served as breakfast food, unless pancakes could be classed under this head. An old. English dish, known as frumenty, was made by boiling wheat kernels with milk and spices. But the American breakfast table was slow to receive the cereal breakfast food. Not until it was refined into a really appetizing food and brought to the attention of all the American people through national advertising did it become popular.
Preparation of present day breakfast foods. Today cereals are prepared for the breakfast table in many artful ways.
They are puffed, rolled, cracked, ground, shredded, malted, and flaked. In speaking of the ways in which these breakfast foods are prepared the United States Department of Agriculture says: "The ready-to-eat brands are prepared in a great variety of ways. Some are probably simply cooked in water and then dried and crushed; some are made of a mixture of different grains; some have common salt, malt, and apparently sugar, molasses, or other carbohydrate material added to them; some probably contain caramel or other similar coloring matter. Those with a flake-like appearance are made like rolled grains, save that the cooking is continued longer. Those which look like dried crumbs are probably made into a dough, baked, crushed, and browned. The shredded preparations are made with special machinery which tears the steam-cooked kernels into shreds and deposits them in layers or bundles. Very many of the ready-to-eat cereals are parched or toasted before packing. This gives them a darker color, makes them more crisp, and imparts a flavor which many persons relish."
The process by which puffed foods are made is possibly the most interesting and ingenious of all. The kernels of the grains to be puffed are carefully cleaned and then cooked with live steam in a gunlike cylinder. When the steam has thoroughly saturated the kernels and raised them to a terrific heat, they are shot from this gunlike cylinder into cold air. As a result the heat that is within the kernels causes them to swell or puff to several times their natural size.
Growing and marketing oats for breakfast food. As oats undoubtedly furnished the first cereal break-fast food, let us study the preparation of this grain for our breakfast table.
This is the story of a two-pound can of rolled oats. The oats which went into this can were harvested in an Illinois field. They were cut, bundled, , dropped to the ground by a clicking reaper, then bound, shocked, and stacked. After they had cured in the sun, so that they would not sweat when put into elevators, the oats were threshed and hauled to market.
Testing the oats. The oats were then put into an elevator, hauled up into a high bin, by a long belt set with iron cups or pockets, which operated in a hollow, boxlike shaft. From the elevator they were finally shot down through a tube into a grain car. This car carried them to a large city where they were sidetracked. The next morning an inspector came and took three samples of the oats in the car one from each end and one from the middle. He took these samples in order to test their milling qualities. Millers always carefully test oats to see whether they are properly cured and whether they have sufficient density and weight so that they will mill into a good product. Should the oats not meet their requirements, they are rejected.
Through the cleaning machines. As the samples in this case were found- to be satisfactory, the oats were accepted and hauled to the mill, where they were sucked through big iron pipes into large storage bins. But they were soon taken from the bins and sent through a cleaning machine having many parts. One section of this machine consists of shaking screens which remove the wild mustard seed which is mixed with the oats. Another part tosses the oats about in strong blasts of air, which blow the chaff, grass seed, and other impurities from them. Still another section of this machine sucks the oats through a big shaft and lets the stones and heavier elements drop into a box below.
What kiln drying does for oats. From the cleaning machine the oats were sent through the "clip-per," where their tails were cut off. Next they were sent to the kiln drier where hot air, coming through the floor, kept blowing them up in the air and stirring them about. There are other ways of kiln drying, one of which is to put the oats through a machine something like a coffee roaster. Still another method is to dry them in big open pans over the fire, as tea is sometimes fired. The first way, however, is the quickest, requiring only about three quarters of an hour for a carload. This drying, or roasting, develops the flavor of the oats; just as it does with coffee. The oils in their tiny cells are released and flavor the whole grain. The mill with the best roasting system makes the best oatmeal, rolled oats, or other cereal.
Hulled, steamed, and rolled. From the dry kiln our oats went through a huller, which is the cleverest piece of machinery in the modern milling plant. The grains passed through its rollers and were jostled about just enough to remove their coats. Those which slipped through without having their hulls removed were automatically "tailed back" or sent through again by the machine. Some went through three or more times. The hulls were blown away by air blasts. When the oats came out of that machine they were called "groats."
The next process was that of steaming the oats for about twenty minutes to make them soft for their passage between the big polished steel rollers. They were still moist with the steam when sent through the rollers and flattened into flakes.
Packed, labeled, and sterilized. Some of the oats were passed to a machine which put them into cardboard boxes, sealed the boxes, and placed labels on them, all without their being touched by human hands. Next they went into a sterilizing room having a network of hot steam pipes. Here the packages were dried under a heat sufficient to sterilize them thoroughly and kill any unwholesome germ that might, by any possibility, have survived.
But the oats we are following were not put into a package. They were sent to a big press which forced them into a tin can under great pressure. There were two pounds put into that can, which was then sealed and sent to the sterilizing room.
In the Antarctic. Suppose our two-pound can, whose history we have been following, was one of the cans bought by Captain Scott and Lieutenant Shackleton and put aboard their ship which, in 1901, made a dash for the South Pole. The good ship was on the water for many, many days and was finally frozen in the ice of the Antarctic Ocean, where it was held prisoner for two winters. During that time many cans of oats were eaten by the brave explorers. The men had a terrible time, and suffered much from cold and hunger; but they were deter-mined not to die of starvation, so they were very frugal of the oats, because they did not know how great might yet be their need. It was a hard struggle for them to keep life within their bodies. The men greatly needed a more generous allowance of food, yet they hoarded their provisions.
How long oats keep. When they finally escaped from that awful ice prison and sailed back to sunny waters and to civilization, two cans of the oats were unopened. These were brought back and exhibited. Finally, to determine whether or not the oats were still sweet one can was opened; The contents were pronounced as pure and good as ever! The other can is being shown to thousands of people each year. In 1917 it was about seventeen years old, and some day, perhaps, it will be opened before many people, and then eaten.
Who can tell where the remainder of the oats from that Illinois. field went? Can you imagine? Perhaps they went to Iceland or Siberia, to Tasmania or South Africa, or perhaps some of them may have been served on your table, or on mine.
Why cereal foods are popular. Oats, wheat, corn, rice, and barley prepared in many ways and mixed into numberless combinations give the American a wide range of breakfast cereals from which to choose. All are nutritious, none contain harmful adulterants, and practically all are palatable and tempting to the average man or woman, boy or girl. Because these foods reach the consumer in a convenient, sanitary, and attractive form and because they furnish simple, abundant nourishment at low cost, they are daily growing more popular in this country. We are consuming millions of dollars' worth of them each year. We also export great quantities of this class of food to all parts of the world.
"Made in U. S. A." America is the home of the breakfast food. It is a far cry from pioneer days and the original American breakfast food, the samp and hominy of the red man, to the breakfast foods of the present time. In the United States to-day many great mills and factories and thousands and thousands of men and women, boys and girls are busy preparing wholesome, convenient, and nourishing cereal foods for the tables of the whole world. Those who. grow the grains from which these foods are made, those who help in their manufacture, and those who sell them, are all entitled to feel that they have a worthy part in giving the world a most welcome addition to its food supply.