Daily Archives: November 9, 2009

The Bizarre History of Chex Mix

Disclaimer: I don’t advocate using Wikipedia for important purposes. However, it can be pretty darn fun to peruse during one’s lunch hour. This has next to nothing to do with health care either, by the way.

Today, I packed my lunch, and in my lunch there was a sandwich bag full of Chex Mix. As I munched on the deliciously salty snack, I decided to find out more about it with the aid of Google and Wikipedia. What I found was far more amusing than I ever could have imagined.

It turns out that Chex cereal was originally made by Ralston Purina. The same Ralston Purina, in fact, that makes Puppy Chow and a whole lot of other animal feeds. Long story quite short, the human foods division spun off in 1994 to become Ralston Foods, which sold all of its brand-name cereals to General Mills (which I’ll bet is who comes to mind when you think of Chex Mix). Meanwhile, European mega-corporation Nestle bought up Purina and the animal feed business. More accurately, Ralston Foods is owned by Ralcorp, and they make a whole bunch of the store brand or “private label” items (i.e., generics) you buy at the grocery store. The latest information is that in 2008, Ralcorp acquired Post cereals from Kraft. So the people who brought you Chex Mix and Cookie Crisp pawned that off to General Mills and 14 years later decided to start making Raisin Bran.

But that’s all expected as part of major food industry dealings. The fascinating part of the story has to do with the origin of the Ralston portion of Ralston Purina. That merger came about in 1902. That’s sufficiently long ago so as to make this story unknown to most. Ralston gets its name from its owner Webster Edgerly, who founded a social movement called Ralstonism in the late 1800s. At its height, the movement enjoyed some 800,000 followers. So what exactly did Ralstonism promote? Here–lifted directly from Wikipedia–comes the crazy….

“Ralstonism began as the Ralston Health Club, which published Edgerly’s writings. It was a hierarchical organization where members were ranked according to the number of “degrees” they had, which ranged from 0 to 100. Members advanced five degrees at a time, and each Ralston book that a member purchased counted as five degrees.

Edgerly saw his followers as the founding members of a new race free from “impurities” – based on Caucasians. He advocated the castration of all “anti-racial” (non-Caucasian) males at birth.

Edgerly wrote eighty-two of what would today be called self-help books under the pseudonym Edmund Shaftesbury. They covered subjects like diet, exercise, punctuation, sexual magnetism, artistic deep breathing, facial expressions and ventriloquism. Although Edgerly publicly claimed that the Ralston Company had no goods for sale, he did sell his books through mail order. Many of these books are still available through old books dealers.

In addition to advice like brushing your teeth, the books recommend things like every young man should engage with a form of probationary marriage with a woman old enough to be his grandmother. Edgerly also created his own language, called the “Adam-Man-Tongue” with a 33-letter alphabet.

The Magnetism Club of America, another Ralstonite organization, was founded to give its members control over the minds of others.

Ralstonites were to follow strict dietary guidelines. For example, watermelons were supposed to be poisonous to Caucasians. Correct diet and proper physical exercise would help reader attain “personal magnetism“, which would give them control over the thoughts of others. Much of the physical regime demanded moving in graceful curves and arcs and walking exclusively on the balls of one’s feet. Because sudden starts and stops and sharp angular movements caused a “leakage of vital force”, Ralstonites were to even pick marbles in continuous circles. There was a proper way to bathe (dry bath), gesture, sit, stand, sleep, talk and have sex. Edgerly claimed scientific basis for all this.”

That’s right. The next time you enjoy some Chex Mix at a party, just think: That tasty treat was made possible by a man whose Hitler-esque fascination with racial purity is but one of his many bizzare “eccentricities.” Who knew? Thank you, Wikipedia.

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Posted by on November 9, 2009 in Uncategorized


Health Reform: Mission 60% Accomplished

After attending a friend’s educational–and delicious–Scotch tasting on Saturday evening, the wife and I headed home where I wasted no time in turning on C-SPAN as if it were a Georgia Bulldogs football game. The reason? Live coverage of the House of Representatives voting on H.R. 3962 the “Affordable Health Care for America Act.” Was my rush to watch this nerdishly wonky? Admittedly so. Do I regret it? Not at all. In fact, I own it proudly. Watching the House vote 220-215 in favor of health reform was for me a small part of what I’m hoping becomes a much larger, history-making success. I can’t know whether President Obama will end up signing health reform into law, but I do know that I don’t want to miss any key part of the process in the hopes that it does happen.

If we are to assess reform’s progress, other than saying we are farther along than anyone has been since LBJ, we need a way to gauge that progress. By my count, there are at least 10 votes that health reform legislation must make it through. These are the 3 House committee votes (Education & Labor, Energy & Commerce, and Ways & Means), the 2 Senate committee votes (HELP and Finance), followed by a floor vote in both the House and Senate, and another round of floor voting on the consensus bill that emerges from conference committee. Finally, the President is a one-person vote–either signing or vetoing the legislation. Now, you can argue that there may need to be a vote for cloture in the Senate, or that getting a single bill out of conference represents a major hurdle, and you’d be right, but I’m really focusing on the major checkpoints here. Besides, 10 makes for a rather handy figure when one’s calculating percentages.

So, using the 10-vote progress meter, where did Saturday’s House vote get us? According to my math, we’re 60% of the way to the finish line. That’s better than half way, but it leaves a lot of ground still to cover. Here’s what the President had to say about it:

The first was the historic vote the House took last night on health insurance reform. For years we’ve been told that this couldn’t be done. After all, neither chamber of Congress has been able to pass a comprehensive health insurance reform bill for generations. But last night the House proved differently.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act is a piece of legislation that will provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don’t; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government, while strengthening the financial health of Medicare. It is legislation that is fully paid for and it will reduce our long-term federal deficit.

Given the heated and often misleading rhetoric surrounding this legislation I know that this was a courageous vote for many members of Congress, and I’m grateful to them and for the rest of their colleagues for taking us this far. But more importantly, so are the millions of Americans whose lives will change when we achieve insurance reform — families with preexisting conditions who will finally have insurance coverage; parents who will be protected from annual and lifetime limits that can force them to pay exorbitant out-of-pocket costs for a child’s illness; small businesses that will finally be able to cover their employees; and working folks who will finally be able to afford health insurance for the very first time.

Now it falls on the United States Senate to take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people. And I’m absolutely confident that they will. I’m equally convinced that on the day that we gather here at the White House and I sign comprehensive health insurance reform legislation into law, they’ll be able to join their House colleagues and say that this was their finest moment in public service — the moment we delivered change we promised to the American people and did something to leave this country stronger than we found it.

In sum and with an appeal to Robert Frost, Saturday’s vote is a good start, but we’ve got miles to go before we sleep.

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Posted by on November 9, 2009 in Uncategorized

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