Not Just for Breakfast Anymore…

April 4th, 2011 | Posted in General

This link on Mark Evanier‘s excellent blog about the most terrible (or awesome) breakfast cereals got me thinking about the oddity that is the American breakfast cereal.

First, the fact that 95% of all breakfast cereals are about as far from what anyone would consider a good thing to eat for breakfast as it’s possible to be. I know there are plenty of breakfast cereals that really ARE good for you… high in fiber and with natural vitamins and minerals… but as a kid I hated that crap. I wanted the sugary stuff, man! The kind of cereals I liked probably had less nutritional value that a candy bar, but according to the ads they were “part of a healthy, balanced breakfast.” It was good to be ignorant.

This might have been my favorite cereal of all time as a kid:

Zero nutritional value. Low fiber. High sugar. No natural vitamins or minerals to speak of. Supposedly made from “corn”. Huh? These were sugary, styrofoam-like crunchy puffs… where was the corn? I could never figure out how they made these things. Were they fried? Baked? Spontaneously formed from solidifying frothy chemical goo? Dunno, but they were tasty and my parents actually required me to eat a bowl before school every day. Suckers!

Here’s my second favorite cereal of all time:

Obviously I had a taste for crunchy, golden colored bits of… uh… cereal.

I am still not sure if the pieces of cereal were supposed to be a kind of crown, or what. They looked like gears to me. There are lots of different versions of the box on the interwebby but this is the one I remembered most as a kid. I thought this guy was kind of creepy… staring back at me over my cereal bowl. I also thought this was one of the more blatantly false-advertised cereals, as I doubted there was much in the way of vitamins in there anywhere. No doubt some lab-created ones were dumped into the goo before it was… baked? Fried?

Breakfast cereals are more of a common bit of kid-nostalgia than most anything else I can think of. You remember the ones you loved… the boxes especially. They either disappear or evolve as time goes on, becoming a snapshot from your past. TV shows, comics, cartoons, etc. get recycled and replayed, but only a kid growing up the the 1970’s would remember that King Vitamin box. Brings you back.

Actually, when I think about it, even the super-sweet breakfast cereals were healthier when I was a kid than they are today. At least they used real, honest to good sugar back then. Now, it’s the horrific “high fructose corn syrup”. Ugh.

Well… back to work.

EDIT– Cartoonist Paul Trap writes to remind me that the “Quisp” alien was designed by “Rocky and Bullwinkle” animation legend Jay Ward. I actually knew that, but for some odd reason didn’t mention it in my post. Ward also did the “Cap’n Crunch” characters and the lesser know “Quake” cereal mascot for Quaker.



  1. Lee Fortuna says:

    OMG Tom! Those two cereals were rite up there with Captain Crunch for my top 3 cereals in the 70’s when I was a kid too,LOVED THEM! In fact I still have a bowl of Captain Crunch every now & then. Btw, researchers just found out that cereals with cartoon images on the box sold much better that those that didn’t have them. So all you cartoonist out there start sending in your toons to General Mills! Great stuff Tom, thanks for bringing me back to a much more simpler time when I turn 50 in a couple of weeks! You made my day sir!

  2. Bill says:

    Quisp is back, actually! I just bought some at my local supermarket (one of those, ‘for a limited time only”, deals). It’s just as delicious/awful as I remember.

    I was so excited to find this relic of my childhood on sale again, I was going to post a blog about it. Then I decided not to. After all, who’d wanna read a blog about that? :^D

  3. Ernie Kwiat says:

    Several years ago I read an interesting book about the history of breakfast cereal: Cerealizing America, by Scott Bruce, Bill Crawford. I found it enlightening and entertaining. I think it was there that I learned that popcorn was, at some point, a breakfast food. Yep, milk and sugar over your JiffyPop!

  4. Curtis says:

    I legitimately read this just after pooring myself a bowl of ‘golden grahqms’. WEIRD. Who says breakfast cereal is for kids, this stuff is a staple in my college diet… not to mention the fact that im eating it at 1 o’clock in the morning.

  5. Justin Cook says:

    I love cereal packaging. As a kid it was always the reason to want the cereal. Bright colors, characters and maybe even a free gift. Never failed. But the cereals themselves were always dissapointing. Sticky sweet and tasteless. Give me porridge any day of the week!

  6. I too, loved King Vitamin! ” Have Breakfast with the King” I can still hear the song! In the late 70’s, I remember a big PUSH toward eliminating the word “SUGAR” from the covers of cereal boxes! Super Sugar Crisp became Golden Crisp, Sugar Smacks became Honey Smacks… They changed the names and KEPT THE SUGAR!!!!! ahhhhhh Marketing!
    Todays foods are healthier than ever, yet we have more fatso’s than ever.

  7. Lash LeRoux says:

    Thanks, Tom. I still have a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles EVERY night before I go to sleep. What’s the worst thing that has ever happened to my physique? Not having to take my shirt off on national television anymore! ;o)

  8. Mark Engblom says:

    I still love having a bowl of “kid” cereal most days (sugar is my “coffee”), but back in the “olden days”, my faves were the General Mills “monster cereals”, Count Chocula, Frankenberry, Boo Berry, etc. Another somewhat more obscure favorite was “Freakies”, which had a whole cast of cartoon monsters (and tasted alot like King Vitamin), each with their own names, personalities, etc. Although every kid cereal had its cartoon mascot, I seemed to be attracted to cereals with larger casts of interconnected characters…which makes it no surprise that superhero comic books hooked me at a young age as well.

  9. Bearman says:

    Funny I loved King Vitamin but didn’t like Capn Crunch unless it had Crunchberrys.

    My other favs were Kaboom

    And two few people remember Grins, Smiles, Giggles and Laughs
    and Freakies.

  10. Emily says:

    I loved King Vitamin too! 🙂

  11. Jeff says:

    Loved Quisp and Quake. I had a battery-powerd Quisp propeller hat until I tried to use it like a motorboat in the bathtub.

  12. Mark Hill says:

    Wow, lots of cereal memories here.

    I too had one of those Quisp propeller hats…and my brother had a Quake hat, (like a miner’s helmet with a light) a promotion. And yes, Quisp DID taste good. (Of course kids back then thought “Space Food Sticks” tasted good, too.)


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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