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Nothing is healthier, and still delicious, than home-made Bircher Müesli with its grated apples, oatmeal and any other seasonal raw fruit or carrot. Just look at the breakfast I had this summer on a bike trip in St. Gallen.I only recently discovered the story behind the dish. Bircher Müesli was developed around 1903 by the Swiss doctor and nutritionist Maximilian Bircher-Benner (he took his wife’s name!).

Dr. Bircher lived in a time when doctors were debating the quality of calories and nutrition of meat versus vegetables. Dr. Bircher took the debate to a new level when he argued that raw foods held vital nutritional value from photosynthesis which is lost when cooked.

At first labeled a quack, his book and subsequent clinic gained popularity; attracting renown patients such as Czar Nicolas II, Prime Minister Golda Meir, poet and artist Hermann Hesse and Nobel novelist Thomas Mann. His friends included doctors Marie Montessori, Auguste Forel, and Sigmund Freud.

Dr. Bircher developed a program of early up, early to bed, long days outside walking, cold showers, massages and dancing. His strict diet focused on raw food, raw carbohydrates and maybe a little meat. But no chocolate, coffee, or alcohol.

Every meal began with what is today called Bircher Müesli. His original recipe is:

  • 1 tablespoon of rolled oats soaked in 3 tablespoons of cold water for 12 hours
  • 1 tablespoon of Sweetened Condensed Milk (remember fresh milk used to easily curdle)
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 medium apple, grated with peel
  • 1 tablespoon ground hazelnuts or almonds

The variation I prefer is based on my brother-in-law’s recipe:

  • 1 cup (100 grams) oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) of buttermilk
  • 500 grams whole milk yogurt
  • 2 apples, grated with peel
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • lemon juice
  • nuts and maple syrup or sugar to taste when served

Mix the ingredients and set overnight.

Bircher Muesli ingredients

Interested in Dr. Bircher-Benner? I found the following documents and website’s very interesting:

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