History of Muesli
We all know that muesli was invented in Switzerland, but did you know that it started as a dish of grated apple combined with a small amount of rolled oats soaked in water. It was designed by Dr Maximilian (Max) Bircher-Benner around 1900 as a way of giving fresh fruit to patients in a sanatorium.
It wasn’t until 1959 that the muesli we know today was invented. A couple formed the Swiss company Somalon in 1954 and started out making baby food but had difficulty breaking into the market. In 1959 they met the son of Bircher-Benner and he agreed to let them use the name Bircher for their muesli product, provided it followed his father’s philosophy by having as many raw, organic ingredients as possible. They called their product Bio-Birchermüesli and launched it under the brand name ‘Familia’ (food for the whole family).
Muesli wasn’t the original term Bircher-Benner used for his mix. He called it Apfeldiätspeise (apple diet dish). The first use of the word muesli I have found is in an advertisement for oats in the Swiss newspaper La Gruyère of 11 May 1929 (p.5) which notes that they can be used for making Bircher muesli. And it appears in a book by Bircher-Benner and his sister of 1934 titled Health-giving dishes (in translation). Apparently the word was derived from the German Alemannic dialect word Mues which means ‘puree’ or ‘mash-up’.
I’m not clear what was in the 1959 familia muesli, but there are many products marketed under the same brand today that claim to be the ‘original’ Birchermüesli. Ingredients of one include oat, wheat, barley, millet and rye flakes, date pulp, banana puree and apple, raisins, roasted hazelnuts and almonds, plus sunflower oil. So pretty much as in most supermarket products today, except that in most of these the muesli is toasted and with the familia Birchermüesli you let it soak in milk for several hours or overnight as per Bircher-Benner’s concept.
Bircher-Benner’s dish wasn’t intended as a breakfast cereal, and it remains in Switzerland and Germany something you can eat as a light evening meal with bread and coffee. For me, its a perfect after-dinner pudding, as well as a breakfast staple.
Make Your Own
Check out my page on making your own muesli. Otherwise, see what various eateries have come up with by visiting my reviews below.
As on my other pages, the following café reviews are ranked from best to worst. This is based not just on the taste of the food, but also how it is presented, the service, standard of coffee, ambience and value for money. There is nothing scientific about this and everyone will have different views of their relative importance, and indeed ideas about each one. But at least you get a consistent opinion (mine) across the different eateries here. And while you get evaluations based on the total package here, on my home page you can see my top ratings under each of the different attributes of food, coffee, ambience, etc. (If the tiles look scrambled, press the F5 key).
The Top Picks: