In 1829. the Graham Cracker was developed right here in Bound Brook by an eccentric Presbyterian minister, the Reverend Sylvester Graham to cure the dread fever of lust.
Reverend Graham was raised by a succession of relatives and worked as a farm hand, clerk and teacher before embracing the ministry due to ill health. He preached a strict vegetarian diet, recommended hard mattresses, open bedroom windows, chastity, cold showers, loose clothing and vigorous exercise.
He felt that a strict diet devoid of meat and rich in fiber would combat rampant desire. He was convinced that eating meat and fat led to sinful sexual excess and that the use of mustard and ketchup would cause insanity.
Rev. Graham had many adherents during his lifetime. Graham-boarding houses sprang up in New York and Boston as part of the health craze he inspired.
The graham cracker, in its first form, wasn’t supposed to be sweet or delicious. Graham developed his own special process for baking with finely ground, unbleached wheat flour, wheat bran and coarsely ground germ. He first made the cracker in Bound Brook, NJ, in 1829. But coupled with his religious lectures, his grain-based diet took off in the 1830s, sparking the modern-day equivalent of a fad diet. (Think gluten-free craze, in reverse.)
The “Graham Diet” was chock full of simply prepared whole-grain breads and starches with little seasoning. Meat, coffee, alcohol and tobacco were forbidden.
For how bland his food was, Graham was a bit of a food snob. In 1837, he wrote, “Thousands in civic life will, for years, and perhaps as long as they live, eat the most miserable trash that can be imagined, in the form of bread, and never seem to think that they can possibly have anything better, not even that it is an evil to eat such vile stuff as they do … I have thought, therefore, that I could hardly do society a better service, than to publish the following treatise on a subject, which, whether people are aware of it or not, is, in reality, of very great importance to the health and comfort of every one.”
Even during his life time, most people thought the Reverend Graham was absolutely wacky but Bound Brookites contentedly munch their s’mores and bake their pie crusts, many not even aware that the first Graham Crackers was made right here in our town.