Just in case you’re getting a bit tired of the ever-increasing political toxicity and calamitous world events, I thought I’d take a break from the mayhem and talk about cereal this week. Perhaps that’s a topic that will stir emotions without simultaneously raising blood pressure and causing friendships to fracture.
A recent article on the ever-popular (since 1897) Grape-Nuts started me down this path of goodwill and nostalgia. Ever since I’ve known her, which is a good long while now, my mom has been a rabid fan of that Post Company product. She, however, rarely indulged her passion for her favorite treat at breakfast time. No, Mom usually enjoyed her bowl of goodness in the evening. While Dad and my siblings and I craved the usual ice cream or cookie or anything chocolate at night, Mom was always quite content to pour herself a bowl of Grape Nuts.
One of her favorite TV shows was Dean Martin’s weekly variety hour. It came on at 10:00 on Thursday nights. Mom was often putting someone to bed around that time or mending something in her sewing enclave upstairs. So, it was my duty to call out from below around 9:55, “Mom, Dean’s about on.” She’d always make it down the steps with sufficient time to grab the box of Grape Nuts, a bowl, a spoon, and the carton of milk before settling in to enjoy Dean and his guests while crunching on her favorite treat.
For breakfast, I’m pretty sure she had Shredded Wheat, but I was way too busy enjoying my Sugar Pops to be certain. In those days, Kellogg’s and other manufacturers made no attempt to hide the fact that they were hyping kids up on refined sugar. I always thought the best part of the cereal experience was slurping down the milk after all the product was gone. Little did I know that I was basically ingesting straight sugar. (In my case, 15 grams. Two bowls of Sugar Pops, eaten out of my official yellow Sugar Pops Pete plastic cowboy hat, put me over the daily recommended amount by 8:00 AM.)
Mom must have known that, but since Sugar Pops was the only breakfast food she could get me to eat, I think she was content that I had enough energy to walk to school every day (uphill . . . both ways . . . in the snow).
Memories of Mom’s cereal preference and mine made me wonder what others might remember as regular breakfast fare, either on a school morning or on Saturdays watching cartoons. It was hard to avoid the sugar. My family members fondly recall Sugar Frosted Flakes, Cocoa Krispies, Froot Loops, Cap’n Crunch, Reese’s, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Also in the supermarket aisle were Sugar Smacks, Sugar Stars, Super Sugar Crisp (are you seeing a pattern here?), Trix, Kix, Frosted Rice, and Rice Krispies, among others. Of course, Cheerios were there too, but they were an outlier.
If my research is correct, the cereal companies used to (and maybe still do) spray the flakes or other tempting morsels with finely powdered vitamins while the product is still a bit moist. So, they could advertise to moms that the bowls of sugar they were giving their kids were fortified with all these great supplements, thus making it okay to scarf it down daily.
I guess that was better than the bacon one of my best friends had every day. I could smell it frying as I approached his door to pick him up on the way to school in the morning. On the opposite end of the scale, there is one member of our family who less-than-fondly remembers some organic cereal and bran that “scraped the roof of your mouth as you chewed.” That was definitely the exception to the rule.
How about you? Were you part of the sugar club growing up? Did Tony the Tiger grace your table? Did the fact that the ingredients list at least mentioned wheat or oats make everything okay? The cereal names themselves can be a tad bit misleading. Even for the good stuff. Apparently, there’s never been any grapes nor nuts involved in the making of Grape-Nuts. Wheat, barley, salt, and yeast somehow become crunchy morsels with a nutty texture.
Mom is happy to help celebrate Grape Nuts’ 125th anniversary. And I have it on good authority that at least a couple of my sisters now also eat Grape Nuts. Alas, I haven’t had Sugar Pops in years (although I still have the yellow plastic cowboy hat). What was your childhood breakfast fare?
Think fast because, unfortunately, it’s time to return to the real world. But thanks for letting me go down memory lane with you. (Please pass the milk before you go.)
©MMXXII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer
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