Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Sugar Cereal's Return to Respectability

My parents believed in healthy children, which of course pissed all of us children right off.

See, they kept most sugar cereals out of the house in favor of such breakfast favorites as Cheerios, Raisin Bran, and freakin’ Corn Flakes. There’s no worse feeling as a kid than seeing your mother come home with several bags of groceries, only to bust out one of the Big Three Cereal Duds listed above.

And somehow, we always thought that eating these healthier cereals was in our best interests. I actually felt dirty indulging in a giant bowl of Fruity Pebbles when staying overnight at a buddy’s house. Hell, I remember being 14 years old at a week-long basketball camp and overstuffing my gullet with about seven pounds of Cocoa Puffs every morning I was there. As advertised, I did feel the symptoms of “coo-coo” after each breakfast. I then understood how people could do drugs.

These cereals were a double-edged spoon—not only were they delicious (by which I mean 78% pure sugar), but they also included toys in the box, which usually caused epic hostilities between my siblings and me. To be honest, I’m not sure I can remember a single item I took from within the delectable depths of those multi-colored cardboard havens of delight, but I do know getting that toy always—without fail—made me inexplicably happy for at least 24 hours without ease.

Which is why I was upset to see more and more cereal companies disclude the in-the-box toys over the years in favor of the save-up-7-UPCs-and-send-$3.99-for-shipping toys. By the time this became common practice, I was old enough to know that it was simply a scheme for Post, Kellogg’s, and General Mills to make more money. See, instead of getting one toy for every one box of cereal sold, kids could only get one toy for ever 37 boxes of cereal purchased. AND they had to pay shipping! That’s like having to go to McDonald’s 13 times to take your Happy Meal toy off layaway.

This morning, however, I noticed an unexpected throwback to the past in my breakfast bowl. See, as an adult, I’m over-compensating for my parents’ refusal to ever buy a cereal with more taste value than a packing peanut. I eat Crunch Berries and Froot Loops now, partly because I never was able to as a child, but also because with modern nutritional technology, these cereals are just as healthy as The Duds (Seriously! I can’t find anything in the nutrition facts to set them apart anymore! How glorious!).

But I’m digressing—What I found this morning made me smile: a toy in my cereal box! Dammit it all if Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes hasn’t been doing promotions with children’s CGI movies and sticking “Ice Age 2” ice sliders (whatever the hell that actually IS) in their boxes! A few weeks ago, the same cereal yielded me a Chicken Little bobblehead! Now, of course I have little use for these things now, but it’s the principal of it all that really matters. Now, new generations of sweet-toothed young people can experience the same excitement I did when opening a fresh box of sugar cereal!

Sweet-toothed young people that have parents unlike mine, that is. I’m sure there are those of you who will share my fate and only be given a precious box of said cereal once every several leap years. If this should be the case, don’t be discouraged; someday, like me, you will be 23 and have your own income. Then you, too, will be able to responsibly shop in any grocery store and pick out your OWN food like an adult.

Unfortunately, I can give you no further advice on the topic because my afternoon cartoons start in about three minutes.

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