Cereal Killer

February 13, 2004

I eat breakfast about once every six months. Given a choice between an extra half hour of sleep and food…well, it’s a tough call, but somehow the sleep always seems to win out. If I’m hungry enough I can at least dream I’m eating, and I get more of a jolt from my ice cold morning coffee if it goes into an empty stomach. I used to eat breakfast all the time, on a daily basis. My parents, my teachers, and even my guidance counselor told me to start each morning with a good breakfast, although my guidance counselor also said, "But of course you’ll never amount to anything more than writing an insignificant weekly rant distributed to a small number of people even if you do start each day with a hearty breakfast."

The other day I had sort of a flashback to that childhood when I was in my local supermarket. I took a wrong turn at the auto parts, and while trying to find my way back to the shampoo section I found myself in the breakfast cereal aisle. One thing hasn’t changed since I was a child: cold breakfast cereals are still packaged in bright boxes with crazy characters ranging from anthropomorphic bears who look slightly stoned to magical wizards who look like they were drawn by people who were more than slightly stoned. Some of the names were familiar to me, reassuring me that when I’m too old to bathe, dress, or feed myself I’ll be able to eat some of the same things for breakfast that I used to back when I was too young to bathe, dress, or feed myself. And then there are new ones I didn’t recognize, but all breakfast cereals have one thing in common: the only organic ingredient they all contain is sugar, unless of course you count that one brand that has a special coloring agent made from shellfish that turns your milk blue. And they’re all better than oatmeal.

I think one of the requirements of adulthood is that you either pretend to like oatmeal because it’s good for you or you add enough milk, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, honey, avocado, whatever, to cover up the taste so you can say you’re eating something good for you and enjoying it. I was permanently turned off of oatmeal by my grandmother who not only served oatmeal to me every time I was at her house for breakfast but also insisted on calling it "oats". The first time she said, "Here, eat your oats," to me I said, "Great, what’s for lunch? Hay?"

But I digress. I guess I don’t recognize most of the newer brands of breakfast cereal because I don’t see as many cereal commercials as I used to. I kind of miss them. There was the commercial where a pro-wrestler tore apart a backyard clubhouse demanding a sugary cereal to combat his steroid-induced hypoglycemia, and there was the one in which a wacky kangaroo would come hopping up to an armadillo and say in a Cockney accent, "Oi, Floyd, you’ve stolen my peanut butter Blitzies!" And Floyd would say, "Yes, and I’m sleeping with your wife as well." Somehow all this would be related to the sudden disappearance of rainbow colors from the marshmallows in Blitzies, and a dire warning that only by buying a box could you, the child, win a toy shopping spree by finding out where the color had gone. This would be followed by a picture of a bowl of Blitzies surrounded by a plate of toast, a glass of orange juice, a glass of milk, and a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon. A voice-over would say, "Blitzies, part of this complete breakfast." Even when I was eighty old I recognized that a bowl of Blitzies was part of a complete breakfast in the way that a goldfish is part of a photocopier, but since I rarely had anything but a bowl of Blitzies for breakfast I assumed all those vitamins and minerals – or rather that 1% of my minimum daily requirement of Vitamin N and approximately two grams of crushed quartzite – somehow added up to a complete breakfast.

The one thing that really bugged me about breakfast cereal commercials was that they claimed every cereal either stayed crispy, crunchy, or crinkly in milk. Not one ever did, unless of course you left a little bit in the bowl and set it out for a couple of hours. Then it turned into reinforced concrete. Breakfast cereals were actually an early building material. But I digress. I didn’t want my cereal to stay crispy. In fact I liked my cereal mushy. Was I unusual in this? I don’t know. I attempted to take a playground survey, but some fat kid named Chad stole my clipboard so I had to introduce his forehead to the monkey bars twelve or fourteen times, and then I was overcome by a sudden urge to go home. I don’t believe most kids really cared one way or the other whether their cereal stayed crispy in milk, but I figure some Madison Avenue character looking for a new hook to sell Boysenberry Blitzies said, "Hey, why don’t we claim they stay crispy in milk?" Little lies like that in advertising have a way of behaving like viruses: they spread around until everything close to them is infected. I’m surprised the slogan "stays crispy in milk" isn’t used to sell diapers. But I digress. I liked to let my cereal get soft and turn the milk blue. Even if I didn’t like mushy cereal it beat the heck out of oats.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

And the moral is…

"If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?" I asked the children in my Sunday School class.

"NO!" the children all answered.

"If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?"

Again, the answer was, "NO!"

"Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children, and loved my husband, would that get me into Heaven?" I asked them again.

Again, they all answered, "NO!"

"Well," I continued, "then how can I get into Heaven?"

A five-year-old boy shouted out, "YOU GOTTA BE DEAD."

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