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 grĂ¢ce, 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.)