Killer Cereals

Until I picked up The Great American Cereal Book: How Breakfast Got Its Crunch (Abrams Image, 2012), I never knew that the sugar-frosted cereals that I craved as a child – Alpha-Bits, Frosted Flakes, Crispy Critters – were as much a product of the Baby Boom era as the Baby Boomers themselves.

Check out these dates, and the wonderful format authors Marty Gitlin and Topher Ellis use to categorize them:

Brought To You By: General Mills
First Poured: 1954
Milked Until: Still crunching

Rice Krinkles
Brought To You By: Post
First Poured: 1954
Milked Until: 1980

Sugar Smacks
Brought To You By: Kellogg’s
First Poured: 1953
Milked Until: Still crunching

Yes, it wasn’t until the war was over and the Baby Boom was underway that manufacturers, looking for a new gimmick, added sugar coating to breakfast cereals. All these foods were born about the same time I was. That thought was somehow comforting.

Frankly, I can’t believe no one’s ever done a book like this before. Nor can I believe they didn’t get Jerry Seinfeld to write a foreword, given his obvious devotion to breakfast cereal (one shelf of the Seinfeld kitchen sagged with them). But what a walk down memory lane! The graphics alone bring back a wave of nostalgia, thanks to a grocery store shelf full of cereal box photographs – Yogi Bear on OKs, Dudley Do-Right on Frosty O’s, even Mr. Spock on Sugar Smacks.

Even more fun was being reminded of cereals that I only vaguely remembered, such as Puffa Puffa Rice (puffed rice with brown sugar; 1967-1975), Pink Panther Flakes (pink-frosted corn flakes, 1972-1974), and Corn Crackos (cinnamon-flavored twists made from corn, oat, and soy flour; 1967-1970). In addition, the whole explanation of marbits (an industry term referring to the contraction of marshmallow bits) was fascinating.

I should not give the impression that TGACB only focuses on the Baby Boom. In fact, the chapter I’ve been drooling over only takes up 84 pages of the 350-plus page book. In fact, the history begins with the stories of the venerable John Harvey Kellogg and C.W. Post (the latter had been a patient at Kellogg’s Battle Creek, Mich., sanitarium), and continues through contemporary times.

The post-Baby Boom chapters were an education as well. I realized that in my early adulthood, I really wasn’t into sugared cereals, and never knew there were cereals such as Cracker Jack (yes, like the caramel corn), Ice Cream Cones, Hunny B’s, and a score of others that were mercifully short-lived. The best to you each morning, indeed.

Finally, proving that Gitlin and Ellis really do have way too much time on their hands, they include an index of fictional cereals, such as Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, Colon Blow from Saturday Night Live, Live Angry Hornets from The David Letterman Show, and Krusty O’s from The Simpsons, among others. Truly an education.

Of course, today, I’m even less enamored of sugared cereals. It’s not so much the $15,000 worth of dental work I’ve been through. They just don’t seem as much fun. Maybe it’s that my mother is no longer around to tell me how bad they are for me. Maybe it’s that the colors in Trix and Lucky Charms now look radioactive. I liked raspberry red, lemon yellow, and orange orange. Why did they have to add Three Mile Island green and Chernobyl purple?

But it’s okay that only Cheerios and granola grace the pantry today. With a reference like The Great American Cereal Book, I can always go back to the wonderful childhood days when cereal was manufactured with the artificial colors and flavors that I preferred the best.


About middleagecranky

The Middle-Age Cranky blog is written by baby boomer Howard Baldwin, who finds the world, while occasionally wondrous, increasingly aggravating.
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One Response to Killer Cereals

  1. Pingback: Milking It | Middle-Age Cranky

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