Everyone knows it, everyone loves it. Muesli could be the unofficial staple food of the world, if you bear in mind how much it is bought and eaten. The different variations of the notorious Muesli are deeply reminiscent of the importance of the food. So what is the history behind this very simple dish?
The history of the Muesli is very ambivalent. Creating an exact timeline for the origin of the Muesli is nearly impossible. But it is said that it all started with Doctor Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Benner who created the archetype of the Muesli – the so called „Birchermues“. That was a dish, served cold, which should bring the people of the sanatorium „Lebendige Kraft“ at the Zürichberg closer to eating a whole diet compiled with fruits. At first he called the „Mus“ just „Apfeldietspeise“ (apple diet meal) or, in his native Swiss-German tongue „d Spys“ (the meal). But it was not him alone who created the first version of the now loved Muesli. It is suspected, that at one of his lengthy hikes through the Swiss Alps, he got served a dish which was very similar to his creation. Just that alpine dairy woman who served him that night, has been making the dish for hundreds of years from a family recipe. The dish included soaked oatmeal, grated apples, grated nuts, lemon juice and a tablespoon of condensed milk. Condensed milk was more commonly used than normal milk at that time because normal milk could not be pasteurized and there was an increased risk of tuberculosis.
A healthy lifestyle with the help of Muesli
Bircher-Benner was one of the first physicians to advocate whole-food nutrition. He was considered a pioneer of the whole-food movement. Bircher was convinced that raw vegetables contain “biologically effective light quanta”. However, that thesis could be regarded as not true. Nonetheless, the Swiss doctor believed in the famous saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. So for him, the oatmeal was not the most important component of the cereal, but the apples. However, Muesli was not served as a breakfast dish in the early days. At first it was taken as a supper, only later to be developed into a breakfast dish. And even in ancient Greece, people swore by the cereal. “For those who care about their health, eat a porridge made of cereal bread in the morning” – this is what the Greek doctor Diocles v. Karystos said around 400 BC. Grain probably played the most important role in the dietary culture of the time. Since grain was very cheap, easy to store and easy to transport, it was the basis for a whole-food diet. Even then there were prototypes of the now famous Muesli. The cost of production was still very high and the durability after processing of the grain rather low. Therefore, cereal was not eaten as much from the beginning. It took its time to be developed into a dish everyone loves nowadays.
Over the years, the muesli has evolved more and more and strayed away from its original recipe. From 1920 on, cereal was offered in vegetarian restaurants and was a integral part of the menu. In the 1940-50 years, muesli was on the menu in prisons, homes, monasteries and in the military most of the time. Due to the growing popularity of the food, there were even more variations of the dish being made. Oatmeal was less frequently used than in the beginning – instead industrially produced dry mixes started taking its place and condensed milk was replaced by yoghurt, milk or cream. Muesli is now marketed all over the world – after it prevailed especially in Switzerland and the Alps. If you look at the shelves, you can see an incredible variety of cereals. Currently, a mixture of cereals, raisins, dried fruit and nuts currently is predominant. Raisins are one of the more important parts of the muesli today. They are cheap and sweet. Many people have different opinions about raisins – it is a lot like Marmite – you either love them or hate them.
So that cereal plays an important role in the diet of humans is undisputed. Muesli has also been thematized time and time again in pop culture. The term “muesli belt” is often associated with a typical middle-class residential belt, whose inhabitants pay particular attention to their diet. Muesli changed a lot of minds and hearts – it has taken a part in the middle of society. And all that because of a doctor who wanted to take care of the health of his patients in form of nutrition. Granted: cereal is delicious. There is no doubt about it.
At last, we leave you here with the original recipe of the Bircher-Benner muesli. Try it out for yourself and find out what tied people to this wonderful dish back then. 😉
The original recipe “Muesli” (as done by Dr. Bircher-Benner):
- 1 level tablespoon of oatmeal
- 3 tablespoons of water
- Soak for 12 hours
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
- Add 1 tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk and mix to a sauce
- About 2 apples (400g), the most sour type one can find; just before serving, ride them with their skin on the Bircherraffel directly into the sauce and stir occasionally, so that the apple meat does not brown
- 1 tablespoon of hazelnuts or almonds rubbed over it
We from VERIVAL are also big fans of the muesli classics and have therefore reinterpreted it two times: On the one hand, our Verival Bircher Muesli with Heritage Grains with heritage wholegrain oats and wheat, sultanas, figs, diced apple and hazelnuts. On the other hand, our glutenfree Verival Bircher porridge with glutenfree oats, a mix of fruity-sweet apples and dates, figs, sultanas and almonds.