Tuesday, August 27, 2019

At the Junction of Cereal and Candy

Boxed cereal has gotten a bad rap. It's dismissed as unsubstantial fluff--useless, crunchy piffle that turns soggy when sitting too long in milk.

But in reality, it's quite a remarkable food. Consider:
*It's got a long shelf life--you never have to worry about your cereal going bad.
*It's very versatile--you can eat it with milk or you can eat it dry right out of the box.
*It's relatively inexpensive--if you keep your eyes open for the right sale, you can often get an entire box for under two dollars.
*It's marginally nutritious--it contains some good nutrients, and it will keep you from starving to death.

So, why does cold cereal have such a bad reputation? It's because of stuff like this:

Part of this healthy(???) breakfast.
Yes, that's right, it's Sour Patch Kids Cereal! When my wife and I first saw this in the store a few months ago, we thought it was a joke. In fact, my wife believed it was so funny that she had me pick up a box of it and pose for a picture. "You could probably right up a funny blog about this," she said.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
I laughed and forgot about it. But then this week we loaded up the entire family and went grocery shopping again. (It's amazing how often you have to go shopping when you have four kids. They go through a lot of foodstuffs.) (And is it weird that all six of us frequently go grocery shopping together? Probably. But it's one of the few occasions when my wife and I actually get to spend time together, so it's like going on a date--with four kids and a shopping cart.)

Anyway, as we were shopping my wife noticed that Sour Patch Kids cereal was on sale, so she decided to buy some so we could determine if it was as bad as it looked like it might be. The kids were very excited. They were so excited, in fact, that when we got home they requested--no, demanded that they be allowed to try the cereal. And while we usually don't negotiate with terrorists or adhere to their demands, having them eat it was the reason we bought the cereal and brought it into our home.

We gave each kid a small bowl and a smattering of the cereal. They tried it without milk, and it was unanimous: the kids loved it! I tried it--I didn't love it. It was quite strange. As the box states, it was sour, then it was sweet. It was not what I want in a cereal. My wife tried one little bite and she was done. This was not a cereal for adults.

Then it was time to add some milk. It's one thing to have a sour dry cereal, but adding something sour to milk is like tempting fate. People who have tasted milk that has gone bad spend the rest of their lives looking at expiration dates and sniffing open milk containers in an effort to never have that experience again. No one likes sour milk. So, I had some trepidation about adding sour cereal to my milk.

The kids had no such fear. (By being "good" parents and never serving them milk that's gone bad, we may have done them a disservice.) They loved it. They ate the cereal, slurped up the milk, and asked for more. Even though the whole taste test was her idea, my wife would not try the cereal with milk. I did. It was not a pleasant experience. I felt the same way about eating Sour Patch Kids cereal as I did about riding Space Mountain at Disneyland--it didn't kill me, but I wouldn't do it again unless I was absolutely forced to by my children.

Of course, kids being kids one of them didn't finish the cereal in their bowl. About a half hour later I picked it up and went to dump it in the sink, and that's when I looked at it. In thirty minutes a white, filmy layer had settled in the bowl. I'm not sure if it was the frosting from the cereal dissolving, or if it was the milk separating. Either way, it made the cereal look even less edible than I had initially thought--which was quite an achievement.

It looks like an Oompa Loompa barfed.
So, the bottom line is: Would our kids eat it again? Yes. But, will we ever buy it again? No.

Cereal really is a remarkable food. But, as long as they keep making things like Sour Patch Kids cereal, it will never be thought of with the respect it deserves. (Nor should it. I'm not sure I'll ever get that taste out of my mouth again.)

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