Christmas, Easter, New Year… yeah, they’re not bad. But, to be honest, we at mymuesli like celebrating a couple of other key dates in the calendar: 30 April is one such day – mymuesli’s birthday (in 2017 we will be celebrating our 10-year anniversary!). Another date that is now just as close to our heart: today, 22 August, is Max Bircher Benner’s Birthday.
Most of you will now be well aware of the inventor of muesli, at least by name: It was Swiss doctor, Dr Maximilian Bircher-Benner, who we can now thank for coming up with the most wonderful way to kick off the day. However, his original concept was not so much about taste than about eating a balanced diet. Among other things, Bircher wanted to replace breast milk – because muesli is “very similar in terms of protein, fat and carbohydrates”, as Thomas Kirchner form Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung quotes Bircher-Benner in his article “100 Jahre Bircher-Müsli: Mit Stumpf, Stil und Zitrone” from 2004.
As legend has it, Bircher-Benner was on a hike in the mountains when he tried something similar to muesli for the first time in an Alpine dairy. This gave birth to the “apple dietary meal” he created for his patients, though this dish thankfully gained a slightly catchier name after a few years – muesli, or “Bircher Muesli”. The latter is the name used nowadays for muesli with grated apple, which we also serve in our mymuesli stores according to our secret mymuesli recipe.
From Switzerland and Bircher-Benner’s sanatorium muesli then gradually spread around the globe. But as Dr Eberhard Wolff from Basel University concluded: “The rise in popularity needed considerable time, most of the 20th century in fact, as the climb to the top was difficult” . And although the invention of muesli is a great story, for Wolff, the legendary Alpine dairy and “mountain meal story are a typical legend”. The story has stuck, as “these types of tales are catchy. Though apples thrive in the flatlands and not on the mountain”.
At some point, apples were no longer considered an essential part of muesli. And since the 1950s, muesli has been available to buy as a pre-mixed, finished product. However, back then, muesli fans had to go to health food stores to buy breakfast muesli. In the 1970s, muesli finally started finding its way onto supermarket shelves. And slowly, according to Wolff, “the identity of muesli split into multiple culinary personalities” (see Wolff’s article “Über die Unfolklorisierbarkeit des Birchermüeslis und die Pluralität von Identitäten”, published in: “Alltagsküche – Bausteine für alltägliche und festliche Essen”, University of Zurich, 2005, p.89). In other words, muesli was no longer seen as a dietary meal, it didn’t have to be prepared fresh every time, and it was rediscovered by many different groups, whether in the political context of the environmentalist movement, by athletes, mountaineers or by its first convenience fans.
Nowadays, muesli is known worldwide, and it has become a fixture in everyday life in so many countries. The market continues to grow tirelessly, particularly in regions where you wouldn’t perhaps expect to see a bowl of muesli on the breakfast table, like Kenya or Iran. In other words, the future is bright for our favourite breakfast, but we shouldn’t forget that it was invented more than 100 years ago by a doctor in Switzerland. Thank you, Max Bircher-Benner!