How a Seventh Day Adventist led us to Rice Krispie Treats

John Harvey Kellogg was a health food advocate. Most of this was due to his beliefs as Seventh-Day Adventist, what with their adherence to the kosher laws of Leviticus, as well as the avoidance of any other foods that could be seen as detrimental to one’s physical state of being. John Harvey took the laws and beliefs to heart, so much so that he eventually became the superintendent of the the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, after receiving his medical degree.

At this sanitarium, John Harvey focused on a variety of activities and philosophies, all designed with the belief that these would help the body be more efficient. Some of his beliefs had to deal with restraining and restricting sexual proclivity, others dealt with the health and welfare of the bowels, and still others had to deal with food and diet.

His interest in diet that lead to the emphasis on breakfast cereals, specifically the use of grain in order to start one’s day. Anything that helped regulate an orderly and efficient digestion, from start to…ahem…finish, was produced and promoted. With his brother, Will Keith Kellogg, they started the Sanitas Food Company. Soon they came to philosophical differences when Will wished to add sugar to their Corn Flakes. John Harvey believed sugar was unnecessary, while Will thought it would help extend the market for the cereal. The debate led to bad feelings, and eventually led to Will Keith leaving Sanitas to start his own company, known today as Kellogg’s.

It was the Kellogg’s company that hit upon using rice in cereals. When discovering that kernels of whole grains of rice that had been cooked, and then dried and toasted, will form thin and hallowed out walls, the Kellogg’s company took little time in getting this new product to market shelves. By 1928, Rice Krispies were being poured into breakfast bowls across the country.

In 1939, while trying to come up with a new treat for the latest Campfire Girls bake sale, Kellogg’s employee Mildred Day and her friend Malitta Jensen, came across the idea of melting marshmallows, and then mixing the goo with Rice Krispies. The idea was not revolutionary, per se. Other recipes mixing cereals with sticky sweeteners were already somewhat known. But most of them used corn syrup or molasses to get cereals to stick. Mildred decided to use Campfire Girl Marshmallows in place of molasses, and soon discovered the joys of Rice Krispie treats.

The recipe was published in 1941, and its popularity exploded from there. I can’t help but think that John Harvey Kellogg would be horrified by Rice Krispie Treats. But then again, he was a bit of a wet blanket.