13.1.11

The Mystery of Grape Nuts Solved - At Last!

As someone raised in North America in the 1980s, I was around for the resurgence of Grape Nuts cereal marketing, and the attendant increase in stand-up comedians' jokes about same. “It's not made of grapes, it's not made of nuts... what is it!?” As a child I'm sure I just accepted these jokes at face value, understood the nature of Grape Nuts as being one of life's little mysteries, and then moved on to watching another episode of Gummi Bears.

It wasn't until this year that I, quite accidentally, discovered the explanation for this enduring puzzle. Handily enough, it was in one of the comics I was reading to look for stories about Captain Marvel doing something spectacularly crazy or racist!

That's Volto, the man from Mars whose powers include promoting Post's new Grape Nuts Flakes - seeing this ad made me realize for the first time that Grape Nuts had been around long enough that my grandparents might have eaten them growing up - so I swung by Wikipedia to discover just how old they actually were. The answer - that they began production in the 1890s - was something of a shock, but immediately I was presented with the obvious answer to my query!

Seedless grapes, while extant, were not as common in America during the 19th century, so a worker in a cereal factory could well be expected to observe the visual similarity between this crushed grain:

and the seed (or nut) of a grape:

The stand-up comedians of the 80s, by comparison, grew up in an America completely devoid of both seeded grapes and simple electronic means of finding out why things are called things - so of course they were confused!

So there you have it, stand-up comedians of fifteen years ago - they're called that due to a physical resemblance between the cereal and the seeds of grapes.

You're welcome.

Next up? Finding out what, exactly, is up with airline peanuts, and why the bags are so hard to open.

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