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.
674 My cover art for the next issue of MAD, exclusive sneak peek from @entertainmentweekly website
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