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A weekly dose of nutty history, pop culture, and recipes from Lee Zalben, aka The Peanut Butter Guy.

Is Müesli Finally Becoming More Popular in the U.S.?

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[Flickr: freshandfoodi]

Do you ever shy away from foods you can't pronounce? I often wonder if quinoa would be more popular if it was spelled differently. What about foods with umlauts? Müesli—the European breakfast cereal made of rolled oats, fresh and dried fruits, seeds, and nuts—has been largely unappreciated in the United States until recently.

The man responsible for popularizing müesli, pronounced myoo-slee, is Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss physician who had a huge influence on healthy eating in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He founded a sanatorium in Zurich where he encouraged his patients to change their eating habits to become healthier. Contrary to the traditional European diet based on meats, potatoes, and breads, Bircher-Benner promoted fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

He was greatly inspired by farmers in the Swiss Alps who ate hearty but nutritious meals to fuel their hard work in chilly conditions. Combining the staple elements of his ideal diet, Bircher-Brenner created müesli (sometimes called Bircher Muesli in his honor) and combined it with some kind of dairy ingredient.

Today, müesli is being poured into more and more American bowls. Several companies, like Bob's Red Mill and Dorset Cereals, offer ready-made müeslis that make it easy to try müesli and incorporate it into your daily routine.

Like granola, müesli is easy to prepare from scratch. You can adjust the varieties of fruit, grains, seeds, and nuts to your personal taste.

Have you ever tried müesli, either while traveling in Europe or in the U.S.? Do you have a favorite variety, or like to prepare it at home?

About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.

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