The reverend Sylvester Graham, the inventor of the graham cracker, wasn’t quite as much fun as that crisp treat might have you believe. In fact, he was a food zealot, convinced that a diet of nothing but water and graham crackers—originally a “health food” made from whole-wheat flour and honey—would turn you into a better person. Some 170 years ago, the administrators at Oberlin College, a small liberal-arts school in Ohio, grew enamored of Graham’s ideas and decided to feed students according to his principles. (And you think your college food was bad?)
Oberlin students were encouraged to abstain from consuming meat, tea, and coffee—except for “crust coffee” made from toast and boiled water. They were discouraged from eating butter and pastries and even from seasoning their food. As legend has it, a professor actually lost his job for bringing a pepper shaker to the dining-hall table. Oberlin students complained so vociferously that the college was forced to abandon its dining plan, and the Graham diet faded into culinary history.
Fortunately, his namesake cracker lives on in treats such as s’mores, graham pie crusts, and our Chocolate Eclair Cake.
MAKE IT NOW: Our recipe for Chocolate Eclair Cake is free through July 24, 2013.