Dry cereal delight

Fact: sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than dry cereal. The snacky kind. Not the breakfast-is-the-most-important-meal-of-the-day kind (which, let’s be honest,¬†doesn’t really even exist since there’s nothing remotely healthy about processed, packaged, preserved ready-to-eat-grain-in-a-box, regardless of how many vitamins are pumped into it. Ninety percent of them are nothing more than candy / caramel corn / cookies dressed up as Real Breakfast Food (in other words, delicious). The other ten percent are nothing more than crackerish / popcornish / brannish chunks (in other words, blecch) requiring so much sugar to be edible that in the end they’re no healthier than the pastel-colored-candy-called-cereal and are a lot less appealing to the eye, sort of like moistened dog food suspended in a milky sop.)

Because I descend from immigrant farming stock, I grew up eating oatmeal (read: lumpy mush), Cream of Wheat (read: grainy mush), and Cheerios (read: stinky mush). Because at least one of my immigrant farming ancestors had a sweet tooth (sprinkled sugar on his lettuce and tomatoes, my grandfather did), to each of those various mush varieties I added a hefty serving of sugar – brown for hot, white for cold – so that the oatmeal and Cream of Wheat looked like tanning-bed regulars, and so that when the Cheerios were gone, there remained a layer of gritty silt settled in the milky dregs, thick enough to trench with my spoon. As an adult, this sounds pathetic. And dentally irresponsible. But as a kid, it only made sense.

On very rare occasions, my mother was gripped with indulgent impulses. The result? Lucky Charms, that duplicitous candy-plus-grain concoction that besnookers all attempts at simplistic categories, the only cereal that doesn’t lie about its candy contents (“Featuring Brilliantly Dyed Stale Marshmallow Bits!”) but instead increases their celebrity status by hiding them among a crowd of pale and shapeless oat commoners. Marketing brilliance.

Lucky Charms provided my training ground for dry cereal snacking. One hour of after-school TV, a big bowl of dry Lucky Charms, and immigrant farming stock genes taught me this: plow through the pale and shapeless oat commoners first, then savor the brilliantly dyed stale marshmallow bits en masse. Delay gratification. Save the best for last. That kind of thing.

I’m older now. And immeasurably wiser. I know that cold cereal is one of the biggest scams of the grocery world, that the prescribed serving sizes wouldn’t satisfy an ant, that the added nutrients are essentially worthless, that the marketers have shamelessly targeted young children, and that I would be better off eating two eggs and 4 strips of bacon (or a donut).

In spite of all that, every now and then dry Lucky Charms is what I crave. Because I’m older and wiser, though, I no longer eat the duplicitous concoction in two phases. I have neither the time nor patience for that kind of neurotic precision. Which is to say, I have neither the time nor patience to waste my snacking energies on pale and shapeless oat bits, but I have all the time in the world to pluck out the brilliantly dyed stale marshmallow bits.

All of them.

As an adult, it only makes sense.