Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cracklin' Oat Bran: Living in Danger

I'm listening to the song "Standing Outside a Broken Telephone Booth With Money in My Hand" by the Primitive Radio Gods, and thinking about Cracklin' Oat Bran. For some reason the two seem to fit. Maybe it's the hollow rectangular shape of the cereal recalling an empty phone booth. Maybe it's the lightly toasted oatmeal taste syncing in my brain with the ethereal piano solo at 2:41. Maybe its the fact that both are outlaws of sorts -- Cracklin' Oat Bran with its unorthodox shape, Primitive Radio Gods with their one-hit-wonderness, both relegated to the sidelines of popular culture, both enjoying a sort of forlorn cult status from the fringes of our popular imagination.

Whatever the reason, Cracklin' Oat Bran has been on my mind. For a good while. Well, for a few days. Until Saturday night, I had actually never tried the stuff. Now I realize it's the XTC or the Beta Band or the Zombies or the Action of the cereal world -- revered by few, forgotten by most. And that's fine. Because mystique is very becoming on cereal, and Cracklin' Oat Bran is nothing if not mysterious. Its squared-off edges and geometric cuts and hard angles seem manufactured in some grey North Korean factory or some underground Montana bunker, infused with military precision and the vestiges of a time when, as Abe Simpson once put it, men's haircuts were so sharp you could set a clock to them.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Nutritious Bran Treasures Mush

Behold: a cereal name creator. It's kind of stupid. But that didn't stop me from crafting Lucky Dipped Sugar Cubes (TM), a Japanese children's brand; or Sweetened Nut Granola Loops (TM), a healthy alternative to Froot Loops; or even Nutritious Bran Treasures Mush (TM), something you should never, ever eat, yet will nonetheless be appearing on grocery store shelves in Spring 2011.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cereal Remains of the Day

A cereal sage named Wally recently posited an interesting question to me: How does the enlightened cereal consumer handle the fractional remains at the end a cereal box after the last full bowl has been poured? Is this a matter of choice? Or is there a right and a wrong way to do it? I lean strongly toward the former, believing that cereal consumption is a matter near and dear to the soul and that the only potential sin pertaining to cereal is to not eat it at all. But still, it's a question worth addressing: How do we handle such remains, and why?

But first, allow me to clarify: I'm not talking about crumbs or sugar dust from Frosted Mini Wheats or stale Cheerios or anything else unsightly. My advice is to dispatch of such things forthwith. But what about the raisin-less flakes at the end of a box of Raisin Bran? What about the final fifteen Frosted Mini Wheats? What about the last quarter-cup of Rice Krispies?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

S'mores vs. Waffles

I feel like a kid again. What's better: S'mores or waffles? Two of the supermarket's most sugary, unhealthy, unnatural, highly processed, and damn delicious cereals (in small doses, at least) currently reside in my kitchen cabinet, for no reason other than the fact that they were on sale, and I am, on occasion, a sucker for sugary cereals. I have fond memories of Post's Waffle Crisp, a cereal that hasn't been around for ages yet seems to have been reborn as Kellogg's Eggo Cereal. Adjacent to the latter at Pac N Save was an attractive blue box of Smorz cereal. So I picked them both up for $2 a pop.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cereal Beer

Cereal-infused beer, that is. They made it, not me. But I'm not saying I wouldn't drink a glass if the opportunity presented itself.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Lucky Charms Three Ways

So I bought some Lucky Charms. I'm not entirely sure why. People had been talking about them, I guess, and I'm highly suggestible. Plus, they're magically delicious, and all that. (Say no more!) The 11.5-oz box was $3.99 at Pac N Save -- not great, but not terrible, either. Certainly worth a try.

I'm not 10 anymore. Nor am I 11, or 12, or 13, or any of those numbers with 1s in front of them. Not hardly. I'm also not a Leprechaun. Mostly. So I may not be Lucky Charms' target audience. But I do love cereal, and can recognize a good cereal when I see one, whether it's got raisins, nuts, or swirled "marshmallow" charms. For the record, Lucky Charms has neither raisins nor nuts.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Code Red: No Cereal

It's one of my worst nightmares. And it happened last week: I was out of cereal. Call me melodramatic, but it is my number-one grocery-store priority to never run out of cereal (or milk), and I had failed. Miserably. Because I was out. Not I-don't-want-to-eat-any-more-Cheerios out, but the-cupboard-is-devoid-of-cereal-boxes out. This weighs on a man's psyche.

I know exactly how it happened, too. You see, only a couple days before the incident, I appeared to be quite well-stocked. There were at least four, maybe five boxes in the cupboard. I even made a trip to the grocery story and didn't refuel, figuring I was fine for another four fays or so. WRONG. Because here's the thing: The boxes weren't full. Not even close. Most had one, maybe two bowls left in them. And a bunch of little crumbs. Their abundance was an illusion, a cereal mirage, a bite-size, frosted figment of my imagination. It took two mornings to go from five boxes to zero. One morning, I swear, I finished off three of 'em. It's empowering, I'll admit, to conquer three cereal boxes in one sitting. Makes you feel like a king. But unless you've got a healthy reserve, there's a downside: no more cereal.

Monday, November 8, 2010


While you're working up the nerve to regale us with tales of your favorite cereal mixes, enjoy this blast from the past. Note how Link turns into a sort of purple teddy bear. Anyone ever eat this stuff? If yes, you rule immensely.

The Long-Awaited Post on Mixing...

...is on its way. But before I write about my own favorite cereal mixes, and the insane level of cereal artistry that informs each, I'd like to ask you, my myriad readers, to let me know some of your favorite combos. Apple Jacks and Cocoa Crispies? Crispix and Cheerios? Grape Nuts and Lucky Charms? I won't judge. We won't judge. I just want to be educated. I'll even try a few of them out for consideration in my article on the wide world of mixing. So please, if you will ... lay it on me. [That is, lay it on the comments section.]

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Raisin Bran Extra: No Son of Mine

That's what Raisin Bran Crunch should be saying of this abomination of a spin-off called Raisin Bran Extra. Okay, maybe that's being a little harsh; it's not THAT bad. But hey man, stakes is high when you're dealing in territory this close to the inimitable Raisin Bran Crunch. I'm sure I'm far from the first -- and certainly not the last -- RBC fan to grab Raisin Bran Extra off the shelf in anticipation of a dining experience somewhat akin to the joy of crunching and chewing your way through a bowl of RBC. But it's not just a cock-tease for RBC fans; with its cranberries pieces and yogust clusters, it does the same to fans of Basic Four, another one of the greatest cereals ever. Upon noticing said ingredients on the box, one might mumble quietly to oneself in the cereal aisle while pondering this week's choices: "Hm, a new cereal similar to Basic Four. I must give it a try at once!" (Because that's the sort of prim and proper voice we all have in our heads when shopping for cereal. At least those of us who like Basic Four.) But alas, dear reader, Raisin Bran Extra is no Basic Four, just at is no Raisin Bran Crunch. It is something else altogether, something ... less good.

There are two primary problems with this cereal. First and foremost is the crunch, or lack thereof. Instead of crunchy Raisin Bran Crunch flakes, this cereal has "crispy" Raisin Bran flakes. They're a cut above the relatively flaccid bran flakes in original Raisin Bran, but still don't make much of a statement. After a few minutes, they even turn a tad soggy. Paired with soft cranberries and soft yogurt clusters and soft raisins and relatively soft almond slices (all that stuff is what makes it "Extra"), the flakes really should be crispier. The result is, as they say, mildly "crispy," but that just doesn't cut it. The balance is all wrong.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Generic Taste-Off #1: Cheerios vs. Joe's O's

Five days before the Nov. 2 mid-term election, it's only appropriate to stage this battle between perennial incumbent Cheerios and upstart cereal Joe's O's. They're both the vanillas of the cereal world: plain, simple, insistently tasteless blank canvasses on which to paint with fruit, other cereals, or, I dunno, flavored milk? Who actually eats this stuff by itself?

Well, that's what I'm about to do today. Because I'm brave like that. Both cereals will be tasted fixings-free -- a single heaping bowl each, paired only with 2% milk. Cheerios: the cereal moms use to pacify their babies, or Joe's O's: the Cheerios knock-off that is deemed fit for hip adults solely because it's sold at Trader Joe's. Which will prevail? Which will win the battle of the bland?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cereal Fatigue Syndrome

Everything in moderation, my grandfather always said. Well, I mean, he never actually said that. At least not to me. That I can remember. But I'm sure that if he had, he would've meant it as much in regards to cereal as to, say, chocolate or beer or broccoli with cheese sauce. Because while cereal is a beautiful thing, much like chocolate and beer and broccoli with cheese cause (if that's how you roll, I won't judge you), too much of it isn't such a beautiful thing.

In my life, the warning signs of Cereal Fatigue Syndrome crop up on an approximately biweekly basis. Most mornings, I awake outright excited about breakfast. I kid you not: before I'm even out of the shower, I've already decided exactly what types of cereal I'm going to eat, how I'm going to mix them, which is due for my first bowl, and which are in line for subsequent bowls. Then I sit down at the table and fulfill my wildest dreams, perhaps sticking to my plan and perhaps riffing on it -- improvising mixes, going with what works, abandoning what doesn't. But some mornings, maybe once a week, or more likely once every other week, I wake up and the cereal visions don't come. Instead, a void. I need something new.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Zen and the Art of Cereal-Bag Opening

Much has been made on this blog of the taste of various cereals. That's all fine and good, but before tasting, one must perform an even more essential task that so far has been overlooked: opening the bag. For without razor-sharp claws, tearing through the plastic with a single violent swipe of the hand is practically out of the question. And without futuristic, super-advanced stomachs that can process plastic and convert it into little wooden coins, eating it whole is, too. Thus we are left with one option: using our antiquated "fingers" to tear open the bag along the top seam.

There are two distinct schools of thought on the matter, and within each, right ways and wrong ways. The first method is the corner hole. This is the one I employ, for practical reasons. It involves opening the bag along the seam, but only at one end. The hole usually extends out a few inches from the corner -- just enough room for cereal to pour through, but not so much that you're left with a gaping, unmanageble opening at the top. Not only does the latter make for a less clean pour, but it may also accelerate the aging process of your cereal, especially if you don't properly seal the bag by folding it in half -- or, as I like to do, both folding and crumpling it up inside the box. The corner hole is a neat and tidy approach, and approved by Good Housekeeping.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Holy Bunches of Oats! Part Two!

I'm nothing if not dedicated to cereal. Really. So when I promised to diligently taste-taste five different flavors of the distinctively delectable cereal Honey Bunches of Oats last week, I meant it. And now, un-bait your breath, dear cereal obsessives: The results are in. But first, a word on how the test went down. Over the course of four or five days, I tried all five cereals with the same type of milk. Also, contrary to my very nature, I abstained from mixing -- all cereals were enjoyed sans accoutrements. And that includes fruit. Just me, one type of cereal, and milk. What I learned both surprised me on some fronts and reinforced my expectations on others. As a reminder, the five varieties were: Almonds (i.e., original), Cinnamon Bunches, Pecan Bunches, Peaches, and Apples and Cinammon Bunches (a LIMITED EDITION box, so rare I felt guilty eating it. Not really.). And now, let's go to the leaderboard, Mo! In order of ascending awesomeness...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Word on Crying Over Spoil't Milk

So a terrible thing happened to me today, tempered only by the fact that I sort of saw it coming. This morning, I woke with dreams of Honey Bunches of Oats dancing in my bowl. I was to begin my super-official battle-royale taste-test H.B.o.O. extravaganza today. Expectations were high. But it was not to be. The milk that yesterday was slightly askew, not quite right but okay to consume, was today dead and gone. This was ex-milk, sour and repugnant and bound for the drain. As I poured the last ounces from the carton, I realized that that was it: No cereal this morning. No cereal. This morning. No cereal this. Morning. So I had a couple eggs and some sourdough toast with blueberry spread from Trader Joe's.

There's a moral to this story, and it's one I should remember myself: If, my friends, you notice that the milk in your refrigerator is approaching its expiration date, or is generally beginning to taste or smell a bit funky, do not delay. No matter how much of a tough guy or gal you think you are, get thee to the store and restock! That very day! Especially if you're planning to begin a super-official battle-royale taste-test extravaganza the following morning. Worst case is that your carton lasts a few more days, then you tap into the next one. Best case is a mouthful of cereal and milk. I had none of that this morning, because of my own sloppy milk-supply management. Don't let it happen to you.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Holy Bunches of Oats! Part One!


Remember how I said that I often base cereal-buying decisions on sales and sale prices? (Who among us, by the way, could claim to be immune to such forces? With so much choice in the cereal aisle, it helps to pass off some of that stifling autonomy to the powers that be.) Well, I got quite carried away last night when I bought FIVE boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats. They're all different varieties, at least: Cinnamon Bunches (I'm snacking on them right now ... not bad), Almonds, Pecan Bunches, Peaches, and, the real coup de grâce, a LIMITED EDITION box of Apples and Cinnamon Bunches. Here's why: Buy 4 Get 2 Free. That explains the first four. As for the fifth ... well, I'm not sayin' I'm a cereal collector, but I just had to snatch up that LIMITED EDITION box, too -- it was on sale for something like $3.50, and came in a bigger size than the others. Solid.

In case you aren't "in the know," Honey Bunches of Oats is, in all its forms, a highly respectable cereal. I thought my wife, who likes cereal only slightly more than she likes broccoli, and considerably more than she likes Brussels sprouts, which is to say not much, celebrated the entire Honey Bunches of Oats catalog. It's that kind of cereal -- even if you're not an addict, you can appreciate this stuff. No reflection on Honey Bunches of Oats' inestimable quality, but it turns out she only likes the one with Peaches. Her bad. So she can have that box. (Also worth noting: Honey Bunches of Oats is really fun to say. Go ahead. Give it a try.)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Raisin Bran Sog and How to Avoid It

Forgive me, if you will, for shilling for a product I find highly amenable to my morning ritual: that rich uncle of raisin bran, Kellogg's Raisin Bran Crunch. Like Willie Nelson and red licorice, this stuff just doesn't get old. Normally, I'm highly cynical of spin-off cereals. Like Berry Kix, et al. If your first cereal wasn't good enough, what makes you think I'll like your second, third, or eighteenth (Soccer Crunch, much?)? But this one's different. I'll admit, when I first saw this on shelves a number of years back, I thought to myself, in my most Scroogey interior monologue, 'What do we have here? Another Johnny-come-lately in the raisin bran family? Bah humbug.' A couple of months went by. Eventually, I couldn't resist this granola- and nut-encrusted Siren of the cereals. And thank God I broke down, because Raisin Bran Crunch is now one of my all-time faves.

Assuming you're cool with bran flakes and plump raisins in your breakfast bowl, traditional raisin bran still has one major stumbling block that's kept it from going viral: persistent, inescapable, irreversible sogginess. Most raisin brans, and I'm not just talking Kellogg's here, suffer from the same ailment: flakes that last about a minute in milk before giving up the crunchy ghost and going soft, soft, soft. Sure, you can get used to this, but can you every really get excited about it? Maybe I'm wrong; maybe some people love that about it. And maybe they have a Gilligan's Island lunchbox or nine cats or a front lawn made of artificial turf. But let's leave those people out of the conversation. Because what I'm talking about here is crunch.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

in the past hour i ate a whole box of cereal

Not me, but this guy. And don't miss the insightful commentary. Highlight: "Cerealboy!"

More cereal-related web detritus as I find it. Because I love you. And because I'm snacking on the very Kix I recently dismissed. Penance.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Surviving the Hunt … and Living to See Another Bowl

Second to consuming it, the thing I like most about cereal is shopping for it. It’s the thrill of the hunt, I suppose – a primal connection to my distant ancestors, who had to track and kill cereal in the wild every morning. I wish I could experience one of those aboriginal hunts, just to invigorate my senses: Swarms of Frosted Cheerios (thanks, Urban Dictionary!) bounding in peril across the African savannah; a clan of tall, lanky Seltenriches in hot pursuit, wearing only boxer shorts; back at camp, bowls made of wildebeest skulls, filled to the brim with the coldest goat’s milk. Forgive me if I’m romanticizing or flubbing the details; they may have in fact been antelope skulls. I am simply not sure. The point is that my weekly quest for delicious cereals at fair prices is not merely a force of habit. It’s genetic.

Some people, when faced with the modern supermarket’s sprawling cereal aisle, may be overcome by options, paralyzed by fear of failure. Make a mistake here and you’ll meet it face-to-face in the cupboard every morning for a week. I sometimes see such people floundering there in the store, pacing from the Froot Loops to the granola and back again, picking up boxes and putting them back, eyeing price tags and nutrition labels. There is panic in their eyes. I can’t help but feel for them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kid-Tested, Mother-Approved? Syke!

Kix is the Ralph Wiggums of cereal: Round, yellow, not too bright, innocent, sweetly endearing. But instead of saying things like “I’ll iron you” and “My cat's breath smells like cat food,” Kix just kind of sits there.

I recently bought a very humongous, 18-ounce box of Kix at the local Pac N Save because it was on sale for some ridiculously low price, because I hadn’t had it in years, and because I remembered liking it as a young lad. My wife was skeptical. “Kix are lame,” she said, or something to that effect. I rebuked her. “No, they’re not!” I insisted. “They’re great!” (Though I didn’t drag out the ‘r,’ so as not to offend the nearby boxes of Frosted Flakes. They're sensitive.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rice Krispies Treats Cereal: RIP

In discussing cereal, I am most often asked two questions. Do you REALLY eat four bowls of cereal every morning? Yes, I am that awesome. I mix them up, samurai-style. So what is your favorite cereal? Being hip and nostalgic and obsessed with that which I cannot have, I inevitably answer this way: Rice Krispies Treats Cereal. I used to eat them as a kid, up through high school perhaps. And up until about four seconds ago, I thought they no longer existed. Haven't seen them in stores since the late '90s. Yet a Google search yielded this marshmallow-sticky pearl of wisdom: Try Amazon. I should've figured. They do books. They do backpacks. Why the hell not boxes of long-lost cereal? (Amazon reviewers [52 of them] have given RKTC a very honorable rating of 4.5 our of 5. Bitchin', dudes!)

Rice Krispies Treats Cereal, the rainbow-striped unicorn of breakfast products. I wish you could try the stuff. (Well, you can; order a set of four boxes from Amazon, as I am surely about to do. A follow-up post is in order: Do my adult taste buds still appreciate their saccharine crunch?) For now, this description will suffice: Imagine Rice Krispies bonded together by marshmallow-flavored sugar into little bite-size clusters. Divine. Never goes soggy. Never bespoils the milk. Sweet, but not tooth-achingly so. A+ stuff, and the perfect morning pick-me-up for a coffee-free existence.

Friday, September 17, 2010

To Corn or Not to Corn: That Is An Inane Question

Before we get into the fun stuff, there's something I want to talk to you about. Of course what I am referring to is the question of whether one should refer to the above cereal as "Pops" or "Corn Pops." Our populace is divided, and no solution is in sight. Lines are being drawn. Sides are being taken. Cereal is being consumed without a clear sense of how to refer to it. Our country is suffering as a result.

Take a friend down the cereal aisle some Friday night. Point to the aforementioned cereal and ask them to identify it. "Pops?" Or "Corn Pops?" How they respond may well determine the future of your friendship with this social outcast who, like you, has nothing better to do than shop for breakfast cereals on a Friday night (and as much as I love cereal, which is tons 'n' tons, I firmly believe it is first and foremost a weekday breakfast item, so there is absolutely no use in trotting out that tired excuse on a Friday night. Do your love life a favor and have some eggs or Malt-O-Meal on Saturday morning.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Oh's Say Can You See (A Ripoff)

Here we have one of the cereal world's most serious fiscal matters: the recent, unexplained spike in the price of a box of Quaker Oh's. There was a time not long ago when this delightful cereal -- Good Things In The Middle indeed! -- was available for the insultingly low price of $1.99. Every time, everywhere: $1.99. That's like four tacos at Jack in the Box. Or nearly two at a taco cart. Or two and some change at Taco Bell. Pick your poison.

I digress. This glorious $1.99 was below the sale price of most comparable cereals. It was, in fact, nearly as cheap (by ounce) as the bags of cereal on the bottom shelf (like the passable Apple Jacks imitation, the curious Frosted Mini Wheats knockoff, and the frankly embarrassing Cinnamon Toast Crunch attempt) that, like a good friend or a can of Keystone Light, led you by the hand through the awkward college years. Don't act like you don't remember them. But the ironic thing is Oh's are no bottom-shelf cereal. This is a top-shelf classic, one you'd like your kids to eat and later remember nostalgically, just as we're doing here.

Getting Cereal

So, cereal. You know the stuff. Pour some in a bowl, dump some milk over it, slurp it down, call it a day. Easy. Well, yeah. But no. NO! Cereal is serious. Ritualistic, crunchy, trusty, tasty-as-shit serious stuff. This is cereal. Don't diss it. Eat it. Love it. Treasure it. And if you're desperate, read about it.