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Cornflakes

Author Shelley Fraser Mickle
Air Date 2/16/2001

Cornflakes Transcript

Who would guess that there’s a story in cornflakes? Shelley Fraser Mickle has one for us today on this toasted American institution. 

Cornflakes were first sold on February 19, 1906, and after that, my Great Aunt Lucille was never the same. Or at least that’s what her husband Maynard told me. You see, they had six children and none of the six could get out of bed in the morning before noon. The school truant officer had been to their house three times in one month, saying that the oldest son Luke was going to fail the twelfth grade if he didn’t show up a few more times to finish out the year. 

Up until February of 1906, Aunt Lucille had only three tricks to get Luke out of bed before noon. In the spring, she would cook blueberry pancakes and a slab of bacon and let the smell of their cooking permeate the house. Then, Aunt Lucille would yell out to all six children, “If you don’t get in here in five minutes flat, I’m going to give your breakfast to the dogs.” Pretty soon, Luke and all his five brothers and sisters would congregate at the kitchen table, scratching their heads and rubbing their eyes. Because the fact was, they loved blueberry pancakes as much as the dogs did. 

At other times of the year, Aunt Lucille would use the garden watering can to sprinkle ice cold water on their faces, and if that didn’t work, Aunt Lucille went out into the backyard and carried in a pig and put it into bed with each of them. All of these methods had drawbacks, which I probably don’t need to go into. 

So in February of 1906, Aunt Lucille wrote Will Keith Kellogg a thank you note. You see, the Kellogg brothers had been experimenting with ways to fix cereal out of grain since the 1890s. They’d been stirring and mashing and heating up rice and oats and wheat in all sorts of ways. It’s just that when they hit upon rolling cooked wheat mush into flakes, then oven-toasting them, that they came upon cornflakes and knew it was a winner. After all, it could be served cold, wolfed down in less than eight minutes flat, and you could be out the door and on the school bus while the rooster was still crowing. In fact, a rooster was put on the front of the box of cornflakes in 1958, probably for just this reason. But back to Aunt Lucille and her six children and the oldest one, Luke. 

After cornflakes were invented, and it turned out that all six children loved the taste of them, Luke graduated from school and even went on to college. Because it was then that they could all fix their own breakfasts, while Aunt Lucille slept in until noon. 

Posted in Food, Stories