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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cream of Wheat "the cream of the crop"

When I was but a youngster, I had to eat a lot of Cream of Wheat, lumps and all. Thank goodness, I loved it! I've always found great comfort in that stick to your ribs gratification Cream of Wheat offers. In fact, I still do! A little bit of brown sugar, a splash of cream (in those days, my sister and I use to scramble for the top of the milk where the delicate cream rested:)

Americans eat more cereal foods for
breakfast than all the rest of the world.
This is how one well-known breakfast food,
devised in an effort to save a nearly bankrupt-flour mill,
grew into a great American business.

50 Ways of Serving Cream of Wheat (1924)

The porridge that became Cream of Wheat has humble beginnings. The Diamond Milling Company of Grand Forks, North Dakota, had barely survived the Panic of 1893 when head miller Thomas S. Amidon, a Scottish immigrant, persuaded his partners, Emery Mapes, George Bull and George Clifford, Sr. to market a product his family enjoyed for breakfast most chilly mornings; porridge. This breakfast porridge consisted of the unused portion of the wheat taken from the first break rolls at the flour mill normally referred to as the "top of the steam" or "cream of the crop."

On October 6, 1893, Cream Of Wheat, a hot cereal, was created by millers in North Dakota. During the economic depression of that year, the Diamond Mill of Grand Forks, North Dakota was looking to revive their business. The head miller, Thomas S. Amidon, convinced the partners (Emery Mapes, George Bull, and George Clifford, Sr.) to try making a porridge product using farina. George Clifford’s brother, Fred Sr., came up with the name Cream of Wheat because the product was so white...Today in Science

We Plain Folks Cream of Wheat fans would rather not get into the tactical question as to whether the iconic Cream of Wheat chef; Rastus was a real person or not? I'll leave that up to the experts. However, I would like to note that the folks at Cream of Wheat, in particular Emery Mapes, who was "a demanding and eccentric marketing genius," were one of the first pioneers of product branding. Not only do I feel that warmth and comfort from the enjoyment of a snug bowl of Cream of Wheat because it soothes my tummy but because that's the way Mr. Mapes and others wanted me to feel. That's marketing!!!

The partners at the Cream of Wheat Company spared no expense when it came to advertising. In 1898, Cream of Wheat's first advertising appeared in Ladies Home Journal As the cereal's popularity reaped accolades, so did the advertising campaign Mapes shrewdly contrived. Around the turn of the century the Cream of Wheat Co. began an advertising campaign that featured some of the country's best illustrators. Artists including N.C. Wyeth, Jessie Willcox Smith, and Edward V. Brewer were employed to create full-page advertisements in American magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, and Collier’s. They also created an advertising jingle which aired during the then popular radio show, "Let's Pretend" It went something like this:

Cream of Wheat Jingle; Do You Remember?
"Cream of Wheat is so good to eat 

That we have it every day. 

It makes us strong as we sing this song 

And it makes us shout 'HOORAY'! 

It's good for growing babies And grownups, too, to eat, 

For all the family's breakfast 

You can't beat Cream of Wheat."
The Cream of Wheat Company was a major player in the competitive climate of cereal advertising of the early 20th century. The company's founders knew in order to sell a high turnover, low-profit margin product like cereal, they'd need to advertise - a lot. So, the company put its name on cups, bowls, dolls, and children's wood blocks.

Advertising historian and Smithsonian curator Charlie McGovern says Cream of Wheat made a name for itself in the early use of product licensing, something so familiar to 21st century consumers..."They used a wide variety of products to advertise their image and they tied in the Cream of Wheat product, the cereal, to a wide array of everyday household items." The ads nearly always featured children and sold Cream of Wheat as the parents' helper. It was easy to make, and it kept children strong and healthy. (more @ Minnesota Public Radio)

If you would like to view the advertising art created by some of the notables mentioned above, Red Wing Framing Gallery and Grapefruit Moon Gallery have an online showcase of original Cream of Wheat advertising paintings. From their site:

Cream of Wheat pioneered product branding, and the company insisted on an unwavering depiction of the product which associated the hot breakfast with images of warmth and comfort. All of the advertisements created under Mapes’ watch reflected the ideal of Cream of Wheat as an embodiment of the American home. The Cream of Wheat advertising campaign is remembered as one of the most successful and controversial branding efforts in American history...

The Cream of Wheat website also has a nostalgic tour of artist prints too which appear to be downloadable:)

Today I would like to share a rather humourous Cream of Wheat recipe book illustrated by Al Capp; Mammy Yokum's Fav'Rite Cream of What Recipes © 1946 United Features Syndicate, Inc.

Let's begin with Li'l Abners Cream of Wheat Apple Pudding, After all, it still is Apple Month:)

Li'l Abners Cream of Wheat Apple Pudding
1-1/2 cups cooked Cream of Wheat
1/2 tea. vanilla
1-1/2 cups scalded milk
1 cup sliced apples
3 eggs, beaten
2 tbs. sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tea nutmeg
1 tbs. butter
Combine cooked Cream of Wheat, scalded milk, beaten eggs and 1/4 cup sugar. Add vanilla. Place sliced apples in a well greased baking dish (1-1/2 quarts). Pour Cream of Wheat mixture over apples. Combine nutmeg and 2 tbs. sugar and sprinkle over the top. Dot with butter. Bake in moderate slow oven (350) for 40 to 50 minutes. Serve hot or cold with cream if desired. Serves 6.

Are you in the mood for a Cream of Wheat Burger?

Me either:) Sure are fun to look at though!!!

Resources
1. Cream of Wheat: Promotions and Coupons
2. Was the Black chef on Cream of Wheat boxes a real person?
3. New York Times Cream of Wheat Salad (for the 100th anniversary of Cream of Wheat)