Peacock Pie


As a youth, I found cereal commercials endlessly frustrating.  This is partly because I wasn’t allowed to have anything that was advertised during Saturday morning cartoons.  If my sister and I were lucky, Mom might spring for a box of Kix or Kellogg’s Raisin Bran (which had sugar-coated raisins, as opposed to Post’s, which didn’t).  More frustrating, however, was the part in every commercial where they’d tell you that “Brand X is part of a complete breakfast,” while panning to a table laid with a bowl of cereal, a pitcher of milk, a glass of juice, a tiny bowl filled with freshly plucked berries, and a plate of toast with square pats of butter, perfectly centered, because never in my young life was I ever served a breakfast that looked like that, on account of the fact that my parents had lives.

So, I was very excited this week when I took a picture of my first dish, and thought, “It looks like PART OF A COMPLETE BREAKFAST!”

Orange Cereal Muffins are part of a complete breakfast.

For the record, I like my bacon a little burnt.

Orange Cereal Muffins

1 3/4 cup sifted flour
3 t. baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 t salt
1 cup Grape Nuts cereal
2 eggs, well-beaten
3/4 cup orange juice
1 T. grated orange rind
2 T. melted butter

Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add cereal. Then combine eggs, orange juice and rind and butter. Add to flour mixture and mix only enough to dampen flour. Bake in greased muffin pans in hot oven (425 degrees) 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

As you might expect, these are rather dense muffins, though not unpleasingly so.  Really, they’re quite satisfyingly chewy.

In Peacock Pie and Other Perfections, the recipe appears in the chapter entitled, “Battle Creek’s Own,” which features recipes from the various cereal companies in town, as well as several well-known Battle Creek dieticians and nutritionists.  Having spent most of my last post on John Harvey Kellogg and the Battle Creek Sanitarium, I felt I had to make it up to C.W. Post somehow, and Grape-Nuts seemed the key.

And though Dr. Kellogg and Post were bitter rivals in life, I wanted to join the two of them on my dinner plate in a spirit of wholesome deliciousness.  Dr. Kellogg would certainly have disapproved of the Post Company’s entree as it involves filthy, bowel-contaminating beef, but I think using Grape-Nuts to stretch a half-pound of ground beef into four generous servings is both health-conscious and economical.  Pretty tasty, too.

Stuffed Peppers Fiesta

Post's Stuffed Peppers and Dr. Kellogg's Favorite Salad

Post's Stuffed Peppers and Dr. Kellogg's Favorite Salad

4 medium green peppers
1 can (1 lb.) stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup Post Grape Nuts
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 T. chili powder
1 t. salt
1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Remove stem ends and seeds from peppers. Parboil 5 minutes. Drain; set aside. Mix 1/2 cup tomatoes and cereal. Brown meat and garlic. Blend in seasonings. Stir in cereal mixture. Fill each pepper with about half cup mixture. Place in shallow baking dish. Pour remaining tomatoes over peppers and top each with cheese. Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees) 25 minutes. Serves 4.

The Good Doctor

The Good Doctor

Dr. Kellogg’s Favorite Salad

1 1/4 cup diced, peeled apple
2 1/2 cups shredded carrot
1/2 maraschino cherry
5 T. golden dressing
1 T. shredded coconut per serving

Mix apple, carrot, and golden dressing. Place on garnished salad plate. Top with coconut and cherry. Serves 5.

Golden Dressing

1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs

Beat eggs (not foamy). Add other ingredients and cook in double boiler stirring constantly until thickened. Cool before serving.

The stuffed peppers have a light barley flavor, and the peppers come out firmer and better-tasting than in many other stuffed peppers recipes I’ve eaten before.  As for Dr. Kellogg’s salad, it’s exceptionally yummy, though I have a hard time believing that Kellogg would actually go for maraschino cherries.  Unless you want a colorful garnish for the salad, you could probably lose them (not the coconut, though – the Doctor swore by it).

Mary Barber in the Kellogg Company's Research Kitchen (from the Willard Library Photo Collection)

Mary Barber in the Kellogg Company's Research Kitchen (from the Willard Library Photo Collection)

We finished off our meal with a light, refreshing, yet surprisingly decadent dessert from Mary Barber.  Barber was hired by the Kellogg Company (which was William Kellogg’s baby, not John Harvey Kellogg’s) in 1923 to head up the home economics department.  In 1942, she was hired by Quartermaster General Edmund Gregory to prepare standardized menus for every U.S. Army command – three squares, all the necessary nutrients, and at least 5000 calories a day – and she accepted only $1 a year for her services.  This dessert was probably not on the menu.

Strawberries Harbert

Plump, unhulled rosy strawberries
Sifted brown sugar
Port Wine

On each dessert or salad plate, arrange 6 or more strawberries, a generous mound of brown sugar, and a tiny, dainty bowl filled with port wine. With fingers dunk each strawberry first into the port wine, then into the sugar mound. Then pop it into the mouth and enjoy.

Indeed.

Indeed.

After dinner, Potts and I enjoyed a glass of port while speaking in ridiculous accents about our time in the Royal Navy.  When you drink port, you have to talk about your time in the Royal Navy.  It’s a law.

And on that note, I’ll be leaving the Junior League of Battle Creek and Peacock Pie and Other Perfections.  Never did quite figure out where that title came from, though they do include a recipe for it (suggesting turkey as a practical protein substitution).  However, it’s been awhile since I had a cookbook that presented so much meaty history to dig into (apologies to Dr. Kellogg), and I now know far more about electro-hydric baths, sinusoidal currents, colon maintenance, and turn of the century health nuttery than I ever dreamed.

For this week’s cooking, we venture to historic Battle Creek, Michigan, home of Kellogg’s, Post, Ralston-Purina, the dry flaked breakfast cereal, and the famed Battle Creek Sanitorium (immortalized in T.C. Boyle’s The Road to Wellville).  Peacock Pie and Other Perfections was published by the Junior League of Battle Creek in 1965, and is every bit as colorful as its city’s history, if a tad less eccentric.

Discerning ladies turn up their noses at Kellogg's imitators.

Discerning ladies turn up their noses at Kellogg's imitators.

Though the cookbook contains a variety of traditional 1960s fare, including more aspics than you can shake a stick at, it also has a section devoted to recipes distributed by the Post, Kellogg, and Ralston-Purina companies, meals served at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, and recipes created by Edith and Mary Barber and Ida Jean Kain, all former Sanitarium or Kellogg Company dieticians who cultivated a national audience for their ideas on healthful eating.

So, in the interest of capturing the historical spirit of things, those are the recipes I’ll be preparing this week.  After all, the Progressive Era was a time when home cooks brushed aside their grandmother’s recipes in favor of “scientific cooking,” tried in laboratory kitchens and vetted for their general nutritiousness and absence of all toxins likely to angry up the blood.

But before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s take a moment to talk about about the Kellogg brothers and their wonderful Sanitarium (called “the San” by those in the know).

At the weekly "Question Box" meeting, J.H. Kellogg informs Sanitarium patients of his plans for their colons.

At the weekly "Question Box" meeting, J.H. Kellogg informs Sanitarium patients of his plans for their colons.

The Battle Creek Sanitarium first opened in the 1860s, with Dr. John Harvey Kellogg coming aboard in 1876 as a Superintendent with star power and a freshly minted medical degree to boot.  He was a Seventh-Day Adventist who promoted a strict regimen of vegetarianism, exercise, abstention from tobacco, strong drink, and self-abuse, enemas administered several times daily, and large quantities of yogurt (sometimes administered as enemas). Though he and his wife, Ella, would raise over 40 adopted children, it is fairly likely that the two never actually consumated their marriage due to Kellogg’s strong views on the general harmfulness of intercourse.

His brother, William Keith Kellogg, would later join him at the San as business manager.  Along the way, the two discovered quite by accident the method for making dry, flaked grain cereal, a process that quickly spawned a hoard of unscrupulous imitators, possibly including C.W. Post, a former Sanitarium patient.   By the turn of the century, approximately 42 cereal start-ups had landed in Battle Creek, although in Peacock Pie and Other Perfections, Mrs. Stanley T. Lowe tells us that “most of their founders were hustlers with little to sell and their careers were brief.”

The Battle Creek Cereal Wars as rendered by James T. McCutcheon (from the Chicago Tribune)

The Battle Creek Cereal Wars as rendered by James T. McCutcheon (from the Chicago Tribune)

Post may have been a rip-off artist, or a geniunely inspired and grateful former patient, but there’s no denying the staying power of his delicious Grape-Nuts (although other early flagship products, Postum and Post Toasties were recently discontinued).

Battle Creek Sanitarium Dietic Experts (from the Willard Library Historic Photo Collection)

Battle Creek Sanitarium Dietic Experts (from the Willard Library Historic Photo Collection)

If you’d like to learn more about the Battle Creek Sanitarium, Boyle’s The Road to Wellville is well-researched and immensely entertaining, though it’s hard to compete with the real thing.  A digitized copy of John Harvey Kellogg’s The Battle Creek Sanitarium System:  History, Organization, Methods (1908) is available for your viewing pleasure through Google Books, and it’s quite the read.

The Willard Library also has a remarkable collection of Battle Creek Sanitarium photos available online.  I highly recommend the one of the Swedish treatment room.

So, bravely forward for a week of Fletcherizing, hydrotherapy, phototherapy, and medical gymnastics, yogurt enemas strictly optional.

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