LowComDom Performances Presents
On cereal and other munchables
* CEREAL *
By James Lileks
I had a favorite cereal; ate it every morning. One morn I took a look at the nutritional information and discovered that it was, in essence, oat-flecked divots of lard. I spent a monkish year choking down Grape Nuts, which resemble a bowl of rugged BBs, but with less taste. Now I just eat what's cheap. This week it's Frosted Cheerios.
The word "Frosted" on the box guarantees that the sugar is clearly visible, not hidden, just as the word "Fruit" assures you that several pieces of fruit-hued putty with Real Fruit Flavor will tumble from the box, and the word "Fiber" means that the package will have the digestive effect of consuming a Chore Boy scouring pad.
Of course, I could scorn high cereal prices and buy the store brands with the cheap graphics. The boxes say things like "if you like Fruit 'n' Fiber, you'll love Pits 'n' Chaff!" "If you like Lucky Charms, you'll love Frosted Pixie Gizzards!" If you like "Alpha Bits, you'll be temporarily confused by Toasty Random Shapes!"
The cartoon characters on these boxes look like losers who couldn't get work with a real cereal. I'm sure the cereals taste fine. But I cannot bring myself to start the day with Oaty Clown Balls, not when the mascot leers like John Wayne Gacy on the last few hours of an amphetamine jag.
Actually, I don't have to commit to a cereal for an entire week just because I have a coupon. There are single-serve containers: The Kel-Bowl-Pac. In the 60s, this was a brilliant advance in cereal technology - a small single-serving box that doubles as a bowl. It was like something "Q" division would whip up for James Bond. They came in groups of four - Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispees, Sugar Pops, and Special K, a cereal that has had the flavor scientifically extracted. The weakest child got the Special K; it was nature's way.
It takes skill to use a Kel-Bowl-Pac, particularly if you are camping. You take a knife and cut along the dotted line, puncturing the inner membrane and plunging the knife into your leg. You now have a small box of cereal stuck to your thigh. Next step: scream uncontrollably, causing an adult to quiet your misery by giving you someone else's Frosted Flakes. Thus does the weakest child develop a sense of guile. It is nature's way.
The different between Frosted Flakes and Frosted Cheerios? The Flakes have a mascot: Tony the Tiger, Mr. Swank, the relaxed old pro, the Arnold Palmer of the mascot circuit. Sugar Puffs had Sugar Bear - that Rat-Pack refugee with the sleepy eyes and the Dean Martin manner, the spokescreature most likely to be brought up on a morals charge. (His co-defendant would no doubt be Toucan Sam, the Peter Lawford of cereal spokesmen.) I always got the feeling that Tony the Tiger would beat Sugar Bear to a moaning pulp if he got the chance; guys like Sugar Bear must have bugged Tony. Sugar Bear would have protested the Vietnam War; Tony would have supported it.
Where Frosted Cheerios stands on the matter of post-colonial Communist insurrections, I don't know. I just eat it because it's cheap. Next week it goes off sale, though, and I'll have to find something else. Lucky Charms, perhaps. Nice and apolitical.
Please don't tell me the leprechaun was caught running guns to the IRA.