Looking back, some of the happiest moments of my childhood were spent with my arm in packets of breakfast cereal, rooting around for a free gift. —Craig Brown
[one_half padding=”4px 10 px 0 4px”]My generation, those of us commonly referred to as Baby Boomers, should probably be more accurately named the cereal generation. We are, after all, the ones who made the folks at Kellogg’s and Post and General Mills billionaires. We were consumed with our breakfast cereals, those sugary-sweet morsels of sugar infused grain with a sweet sugary coating and all the natural goodness of sugar that made us snap and crackle. No wonder we were hyperactive as hell! And reading the back of the cereal box was the child’s equivalent of the adult sitting at the same table reading the morning newspaper. The information on the back of the cereal box was vital to life because it told us everything we could do with the toy inside the box! Reading it once was simply not enough. We had to go over it again and again and again.
Actually, we were a gullible bunch of youngsters who believed in things like x-ray glasses and super secret agent decoder rings. In fact, I distinctly remember fighting my younger brother on more than one occasion for the right to wear that decoder ring we pulled from the cereal box. After all, there was a message to decode on the back of the box and he wasn’t old enough to read it yet, much less understand it’s super secret agent spy message. We believed the cartoon characters who told us to follow our nose, that sugar was great, and that the snap and pop of milk poured over cracked rice was actually the cereal talking to us. Good god, we were a stupid bunch of kids. And we’re running the country now, so maybe that explains a few things.
Rice Krispies® held an extra special place on the shelf lined with almost-empty-but-not-quite boxes of breakfast cereal. Not only could we enjoy the snap and such of the cereal in the morning, but at least a few times a year Mother would mix the cereal with marshmallows for one of the best treats to ever grace the refreshment table at a school or church party. I’ve no idea whose mom originally came up with this concoction, but she most certainly deserves sainthood in the eyes of children everywhere. What would a party be without those treats? Sure, the same thing could be done with just about any cereal, but no one ever did that because it would have just been a blatant, un-cool knock off of the original. Kellogg’s now packages the things themselves because modern moms are too “busy” to be bothered with the fifteen minutes it takes to make a batch. Trust me, kids, if you’re being fed the packaged goods you’re being cheated. Big time.[/one_half]
[one_half_last padding=”4px 4 px 0 10 px”]Cereal is still very big business, of course, but attitudes have changed. Sugar is no longer in the name of anything because everyone pretends to be health conscious. Mind you, the cereal itself doesn’t actually have any less sugar, but they’ve removed the word from the name so that moms wouldn’t be so blatantly reminded that they’re feeding their children empty calories that will establish bad eating habits for the rest of their lives. They’ve also played down the advertising and all but eliminated the prize inside the box. Again, the cereal hasn’t changed. Kids just don’t have the joy of finding true meaning in the bottom of a box like their parents found in the bottom of a bottle. We have deprived our children of one of the basic sources of hope. No wonder they’re committing violent crime before they’re old enough to drive. They never got to figure out the message from the super secret agent decoder ring.
You’ll note we sliced strawberries to put on our Rice Krispies®. Putting fruit on cereal has anyways been a big thing. Parents like it because the fruit is a natural sweetner. Kids like it because MORE SUGAR! In our case, we added the fruit to give the picture some color. Up until this point in my life, I had never really noticed how just incredibly bland looking a lot of cereal is. Those made of a single grain such as corn, rice, or wheat address all monochromatic as they sit there in a bowl of white milk. There’s no visual excitement, nothing that separates one bite from another other than degrees of sogginess. The bright red of strawberries makes a tremendous difference in the visual impact.
I rarely eat breakfast cereal any more. I rarely eat breakfast any more. I’m up early, downing coffee; the kids eat at school and by the time they’re on the bus I’m too deeply involved in work to bother. When I do eat, it tends to be something marginally healthy with granola and dried fruit. No more sugar bombs. No more decoder rings. Being an adult would really suck except for the fact I can now play with my cereal and call it art. Pouring cereal all over someone who’s not my brother? I can get into that.
Our kids deserve to experience breakfast like we did, with all the family drama and hope and encouragement that came from the back of a cereal box. Kids deserve decoder rings. Otherwise, life is like cereal that has sat in milk to too long: still some snap and crackle here, but no pop. [/one_half_last]