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Unhealthy carnal urges or Even the patriarchy can be delicious.


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My girlfriend and I have been reading Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, which is basically the most fucking delicious cookbook you will ever purchase. It even has a foreword by Sara Quin! What more could you ask for?

So we’ve been fomenting cupcake revolution for a few months now, and I just now learned from her blog that V.C.T.O.T.W. has a blog, written by Isa, which is just as delicious as the book.

This is all backstory, of course, for an exciting, erotic tale about graham crackers.

While introducing a recipe for vegan graham crackers, Isa mentions that Graham crackers were invented by the good Rev. Sylvester Graham as a staple of the Graham Diet—a rather simple, back-to-basics kind of diet of his own making, devised to suppress amongst other things unhealthy carnal urges. Like, for example, masturbation (or as he calls it, self abuse, which is I think a pretty clear indicator that he was doing it wrong). He founded a whole school of thought dedicated to the notion that people—particularly women—ought to suppress any sexual thoughts, desires, or heaven-help-you practices by eating really bland food.

A follower of his by the name of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg contributed to this diet by inventing corn flakes, which rather goes to show how deep this commitment to blandness went.

It also indicates the state of western nutritional science in 1822. It’s true: a bowl of cornflakes is pretty unlikely to put me in the mood, unless I was already most of the way there myself (or with help). But it’s also rather unlikely to take me out of the mood. And if you fed me only cornflakes? Between the sheer boredom and the time saved not cooking, I would probably become rather, um, sore. Granted, my just-so story isn’t scientifically any better than Kellogg’s or Graham’s, but at least (1) it isn’t contributing to the oppression of women, sexuality, and particularly women’s sexuality, (2) it isn’t informing people in power what they should make people eat. Graham’s diet, by contrast, was adopted by Oberlin College of all places, where students were justifiably peeved, and one professor was apparently fired for bringing his own pepper to meals. The Army got in on the cornflake act, resulting in this priceless passage:

In contrast [to spicy or sweet foods], cornflakes would have an anaphrodisiac property and lower the sex drive. This theory was carried out in the U.S. Army, which not only applied the theory orally, but also processed the cereal as a suppository.Corn Flakes article on Wikipedia

I am inclined to believe that suppository application would increase the anaphrodisiacal properties of corn flakes substantially. Particularly in the Army.

I had actually already heard about Dr. Kellogg because of the maybe-apocryphal story surrounding Tori’s “Cornflake Girl” song. Sadly, I can’t find anything more than second-hand accounts, but the story goes that her use of cornflakes (and raisins) in the song is a nod to Dr. Kellogg’s interesting (and, evidently, popular) views on women’s sexuality. The raisin (girls) in her song are transgressing the dominant cornflake paradigm, pushing their agency and sun-dried deliciousness into a space where it’s considered taboo.

It’s a fun story even if it isn’t true, particularly because it makes adding raisins to breakfast cereal a radical act. Which maybe isn’t strictly accurate, but it is nice metonymy for women resisting even mere culinary oppression. I mean, pseudo-scientific/pseudo-religious diets are ways of controlling women that haven’t exactly become less popular since 1822. It can be an enormously effective way of enforcing psychological compliance: you will eat what I tell you to, and only that. You will take what I define into your body, and so you will become an extension of my desires. You will do this because you want to—after all, you don’t want to be a nymphomaniac / an onanist / fat, do you?

In conclusion: fuck that, be a rasin girl, and have a cupcake.

2 Responses to “Unhealthy carnal urges or Even the patriarchy can be delicious.”

  1. Jonathan Walton Says:

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    Two points: First, I played Geiger Counter at GenCon with Terry (author of VCTOTW and the Veganomicon), who’s husband John (jenskot) is really heavily invested in the NYC indie games scene. She’s way cool.

    Second, Oberlin College, where I went to school, was once put on the Graham diet in an effort to keep students from masturbating and other sexual perversities. It didn’t last very long, and so Oberlin remains the sex-obsessed queer-and-POC-loving place it is today.

  2. violet Says:

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    That’s fantastic! I totally left out the Terry Romero love in this post, but she is awesome, too. This reduces our degrees of separation to one. Yaay!

    I read abou the Oberlin thing, and I still can’t reconcile it with my view of Oberlin as the school with a naked day, and a vegan co-op with semi-monthly naked okara fights in the yard.

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