Stop digging through the cereal box! shouted my mom at the breakfast
table. Hey, he got the prize last time! cried my sister. No,
we've got enough cereal at home! claimed my dad at the grocery store.
You oughtta drink the milk when you're done. Here, like this, see! advised my
grandpa as he finished his Corn Flakes. Oooo look, this stuff makes the milk
get all pink and gross!!! I need some new milk! said me. . .|
Breakfast cereal is definitely a cultural experience as well as the source of a lot of childhood memories. Of course, no one ever told me in 1969 that I'd get hooked on bowls of grain and milk only to become lactose intolerant twenty years later and subsequently be unable to finish a modest three or four bowls and a couple glasses of cold milk without going through digestive hell all day.
So now, it would appear, my whole cereal-eating, prize-grabbing life has come down to a bottle of Lactaid and this humble website. Unfortunately, like so many of us, it didn't occur to me to keep the prizes until I was in my mid-twenties, and let's face it, the prizes just aren't as cool as they were twenty or thirty years ago. Where's the excitement? Now, I just toss them in a box...
My fondest memory of cereal prizes would have to be the Sticky Wicket, a premium prize from Cap'n Crunch Peanut Butter cereal. In case you never experienced one, it was plastic and had 7 or 8 rubber darts arranged radially. You flung it at a target (the back of the box?), your little sister's forehead, or, in my case, the fuel oil tank in the backyard. The big question is, since I ordered at least two or three of them back in the good ole 1970's, WHY DON'T I HAVE ONE NOW ??!? What was I thinking ??
MY PRIZE COLLECTION SLOWS TO A CRAWL BEFORE IT EVEN GETS STARTED
Cereal box prizes used to be either about the cereal itself or just general fun. These days many are from Disney or some other sponsor. Cereal prizes must not be economically feasible any more. The price of cereal in the stores and the fact that most cereal prizes must be ordered in the mail rather than pulled from the box have pretty much stopped the growth of my prize collection. Some of the store brand cereals taste basically as good if not intriguingly better. I sometimes worry, though, that the lower price might be due in part to reduced quality control at the manufacturing plant. I don't relish the thought of consuming MORE insect parts and rodent urine.
As for my prize collection, I didn't really start saving them until around 1987, so needless to say I've torn open and then lost track of quite a few. I didn't save any from the seventies or early eighties, and back then there was a prize in almost every kind of sweetened cereal and some of the non-sweetened too.
THE GREAT CINNAMON CRUNCH COVERUP
In around 1993, I started thinking again about Jean Lafoote's Cinnamon Crunch, which was at one time my favorite cereal. I got curious about why they had stopped making it so I wrote to the address on a box of Cap'n Crunch I was eating one day. A short time later I got a reply...
The letter, accompanied by a couple promotional glossy flyers and such, stated that the product I had inquired about had never been made. The letter listed discontinued flavors as Cocoa, Vanilly, Punch, Ship Shape, Triple, Home Run, and Deep Sea Crunch. And of course they listed all the current ones, but there was no sign that there had ever been a Jean Lafoote's Cinnamon Crunch associated with Cap'n Crunch. I had done a few drugs since then but I still knew deep inside that I could not have been wrong. Finally I saw a picture of a box recently on someone's site. It was part of the Cap'n Crunch line, wasn't it? Why would they deny that? What are they trying to hide?!
Was it because Jean LaFoote was a scheming pirate?
It becomes more obvious every year that the cereal companies have decided to join in the overall panic that exists in America about not letting kids see images of bad things. Any cereal mascot that had a "negative" quality associated with his character has either been eliminated or given a cerealobotomy to make him obnoxiously nice. Other examples are Quake, Booberry, the Ka-Boom Clown, and the Cookie Crook. Next thing you know, the kids will be giving the silly rabbit all the Trix he wants and the Lucky Charms mascot will be referred to as a Height-Impaired, Spiritually Driven Irish American.
Knocking Over the Cereal Bowl
This is not good !! Try to avoid doing it whenever possible. For one thing, it's a terrible waste of cereal. Assuming you spill it on carpet (or even on a hard floor that hasn't just been cleaned), you just don't know what kind of fuzz, grit, or other particles will get stuck to the grains. For the most part, you just can't rinse cereal off, and it's very difficult to wipe clean.
Also assuming you spill it on carpet, that sugary milk soaks in fast, finding its way to every fiber and nook of the fabric, drenching the padding, and staining the hard floor below. Unless you really hurry, that is, and chances are if you were just sitting down to eat a couple bowls of cereal, you aren't in much of a hurrying type of mood.
Milk-saturated carpets or furniture will start to smell bad soon, so whether you do it fast or slow, you ought to sop it all up, diluting it with water as you go. Don't be surprised if the rug is still a little crusty there, though, no matter how much you scrub. If you tend to do this a lot, either buy yourself a shampooer or change apartmentsfrequently.
Keep in mind as well that if you just spill it on the breakfast table, your desk, etc, you still need to clean the surface well or the fleshy part of your forearms will stick to it for days...
Best advice -- Don't Do That!
PRIZES IN POP-TARTS ??!?
Nothing has ever tasted better to me with a big bowl of cold cereal than a couple hot Pop-Tarts (with butter melted on the back, of course). I suppose my favorite flavor will always be undecided. I don't care for some of the new ones, like Wacky Berry or whatever, and it seems like they even had a really gross Peppermint one or something. I'll also pass on Smores flavor, thank you. But there certainly have been (and still are) some good ones.
The mutation of the apple flavor still tears me up. I would have to say that Dutch Apple was quite possibly my very favorite Pop-Tarts flavor. No other apple treat has quite the same good taste; I still have a clear memory of the Dutch Apple flavor and I hope it's the last of my memories to fade. It has been replaced with the new Apple Cinnamon flavor, which doesn't even have the delicious white icing. I e-mailed Kellogg'sabout it and they said the Dutch Apple had been discontinued and replaced due to lack of demand!.
I also asked them about Concord Grape, another of my old faves which was also coated with the delicious solid white icing. Their reply stated that the name had been changed to Grape (I guess Concord Grape was too specific) and that the variety was only available in a limited number of areas, again due to "lack of demand" (!!!). They were willing to ship them by the case... I considered it. I saw a picture of some recently and I noticed the white icing has been littered with colorful sprinkles. That's just not necessary...
Speaking of unnecessary, what the [heck] has happened to Raspberry? To put it simply, they don't taste as good. Maybe it's just me, but I suspect it's due to the unwise decision to drop the tasty solid pink icing and go with the mutant white-with-sprinkles. Don't do that, Kellogg's! White with sprinkles was and is great on Strawberry and Blueberry (and yes, even Blueberry changed). That's it. Stop. And don't even THINK about messing with the Cinnamon or Chocolate flavors! That's when I'd lose it...
Oh yeah, prizes... in Pop-Tarts. I couldn't wait to open another box to get another plastic stencil template. Remember those? They had various themes and each one contained stencil shapes for the objects dealing with that theme. Like I seem to recall some that were animal theme and transportation theme. Of course, at one point they changed to cheap paper ones and finally they were gone. That was way back in the early 70's and, sadly, I don't have a single one to show for my collecting efforts...
WHERE DID ALL THE PRIZES GO?
I have two younger sisters, but I know I got to keep some cereal prizes as a kid. I don't know exactly where those went! I guess some got thrown in the trash, lost out in the yard or my sandpile, or maybe taken to school and dropped in the hallway. And perhaps others were sold in yard sales, blown up with firecrackers, melted with a magnifying glass, or placed on the railroad tracks to be flattened by the local freight train.
I guess I had other things to think about during my teenage years, so no prizes survived with me through the seventies or early eighties simply because I ignored them then. Later, when I was in my twenties, I usually let the cat have them or I plopped them in my aquarium and let the fish deal with them. A few times I think I Scotch-taped them to Christmas presents as "gift garnish" or passed them out with Halloween candy.
It wasn't until I was almost 30 that I started tossing them unopened into a bag. The bag started filling up fast... I'll be leaving them to someone in mylast will testament along with my comic books and my arrowhead collection.
BREAKFAST CEREAL -- How To Eat It
Eating cereal isn't quite like any other dining experience. Preparation for a good cereal-eat can be quick, but please feel free to take as long as you like to choose just the right bowl, spoon, and glass. I recommend sticking the glass (clear glass is preferred) into the freezer about 20 minutes beforehand if possible to get it frosty. If the cereal needs sugar, add that to the bowl while it's still empty. Then pour the milk in and stir while raking the spoon through the sugar, creating sweet milk. This might not be how you do it now but believe me, it's better this way. Once the cereal has been poured into the bowl, more sugar can be added as desired. If you like a few strawberries or possibly some bananas on your cereal, these can be added before OR after the additional sugar is sprinkled on, if any.
Depending on your tastes, let the cereal soak until it's moist but not mushy. Some brands will get soggy in under a minute while others take up to five. A word of warning, though, some very sog-resistant ones can tear up the roof of your mouth if you don't let them sit long enough. It can be a delicate decision. Timing is everything here. Of course, if you like your cereal soggy, wait longer at this point.
Then just eat it, man! It's that simple. You might have to stop to freshen up the milk or add more sugar, but otherwise it's pretty much effortless pleasure. Enjoy !!!!
As for what to do with the empty box when you're done, that's up to you...
MILK... IT GIVES A BODY GAS
When I was about 28 or so, I began to notice that I was passing gas a lot. I mean a lot. Not just your average farts, either. I'm talking about ones that would have blown my childhood buddies right out of the treehouse. It's amazing that I didn't recognize the gross smell right away, but I didn't. Shortly thereafter I started suffering from painful stomach cramps almost every week, sometimes waking up doubled over in pain and actually moaning audibly (sometimes, while I was awake, I'd grab a bowl of cereal...).
Mysteriously, no one seemed to know how to explain it. I went to one of those MedCheck clinics once and they didn't have a clue. All the old-timers and mothers at work were stumped. Finally one day I happened to be reading a book about food in various cultures (Good To Eat, by Marvin Harris, 1985, Simon Schuster) and there it was... my symptoms were all described precisely, and the thing even had a name -- lactose intolerance. And suddenly I knew what the too-familiar smell was that had been bursting from my behind. The old familiar odor of spoiled milk, which I was now apparently producing in my colon on a regular basis...
It really isn't fair, either. I love milk! Now I have to spend an extra $20 per month or so on Lactaid pills, and it's that low only because I've forced myself to cut way back on my dairy product consumption. You're supposed to chew the pills up, but I just can't get myself to do that. I don't want chunks of it stuck in my molars while I eat my cereal. The special milk they sell tastes funny to me. I think they should make a Lactaid Patch. I'd even be willing to take shots once a month... just keep giving me that breakfast cereal and cold milk.
WHAT IT DOES TO THE MILK
I think if they can make the recording people put violence and sex ratings on our CDs tapes then surely we can make the cereal people give us some sort of indicator as to what the cereal will do to the milk it soaks in... I mean, the brands that turn the milk all brownish or colorful don't suit my likings at all. If they leave soggy, non-retrieveable pieces, whether they be against the bowl edge or right out floating in the middle, then it's even worse. That's just sick...
Some guy does manufacture and sell a special cereal bowl that keeps the quick-soggying brands out of the milk when needed, but this seems like little more than a concession to the cereal companies. We're basically saying, Go ahead folks,... make it soggy. We'll figure out how to eat it somehow anyway! However, I guess I would hate to see them add more chemicals to the cereal or something in order to keep it artificially crunchy. Either way, you're left with that milk, and I don't like it myself...
I used to have a black cat, Flash, and I'd just give the used-up milk to him. He'd always drink it right up no matter what condition it was in (although he didn't seem to care for Peanut Butter Crunch-ed milk). You didn't even have to pour it out into another bowl for him. He'd lick that one practically clean. I should mention, I suppose, that I later had a different cat, Spud, a silver Persian, and he didn't like cereal milk at all and sometimes dumped it over just for the hell of it.
My point is, I guess, that I prefer cereal that doesn't muck up the milk too badly. Or at least, not right away. If I want mushy stuff, I'll eat Cocoa Wheats or some other hot cereal. Cocoa Wheats, of course, is among the greatest things ever created, but then that's a whole other story.
STAY CRUNCHY EVERYBODY!!!
Tasty Breakfast Cereals That Went Away For Some Reason
Sometimes, the cereal companies, in their infinite wisdom, decide to discontinue production of some cereals that many of us really like. The last breakfast cereal event that affected me personally would be the bastardization of Froot Loops with the addition of green, blue, and purple. I guess I could have handled purple, but not the others. Now it tastes like candy to me. So Froot Loops for me is essentially gone.
I wasn't bothered too much by the disappearance of Freakies or Fruity Freakies, but there are three brands that I really miss -- Quake, Pink Panther Flakes, and Jean Lafoote's Cinnamon Crunch.
As for Pink Panther Flakes, which was made by Post cereals, I don't know why they stopped making it. I assume they'd say it was a lack of consumer demand though I doubt if they were doing a very good job of measuring that. No one ever asked me or anyone I've ever known...
I was really bummed out about the death of Quake. I can remember when I was a kid they had a vote on the TV commercials where kids were supposed to vote whether to keep Quisp or Quake. I voted for Quake, but of course he lost and went away forever. To be honest, I don't think the Quaker Oats Company's marketing people truly cared what the survey said. They had already made up their minds to get rid of Quake because he was a big brutish fellow who hit things and broke them. Boo-hoo-hoo...
Some of you might have loved the Quangaroo cereal, and there sure isn't anything like it around today. Kaboom is one I never cared for because if I remember correctly it had marshmallow bits in it, which don't really seem like they belong mixed with milk to me. Another gone but not forgotten is Fruit Brute, also a marshmallowy confection. Booberry and Frankenberry are available in limited areas and often show up in extra stores around Halloween time. There also used to be a monster cereal called Mummy Yummies.
Of course, Quisp is not available to most of us now either, though it can be obtained in some areas and even ordered by mail. Also, you can get something that I think is basically Quisp in the bagged cereal section. It goes by the name of Sweet Crunch. I bought a bag of it the other day and it's good but it seems to be kind of chunkier than I remember Quisp being. But then I could be wrong. And it has a cartoon shark as the mascot, which seems odd.
I don't really have any recollection of Nabisco Rice or Wheat Honeys, but they look tasty on the boxes I've seen, and I'm sure someone somewhere misses them a lot. Other discontinued cereals that I didn't really eat when they were around include Dino Pebbles, Vanilly Crunch, Punch Crunch, Sir Grapefellow, Crazy Cow, Mr. T Cereal, Super Orange Crisp, Crispy Critters, Jets, and Puffa Puffa Rice. If I've left out your old favorite, please let me know.
If I could go back in time for one one day, I think I'd spend two or three hours just eating pre-sweetened breakfast cereal...
Maybe if enough of us continue to write and e-mail the cereal companies, we can get them to bring back some of our old favorites. Next time you're eating a few bowls, look on the side of the box and write down the address for comments. Write to them and ask them why they discontinued cereals that they once made. If you don't know who made your favorites, check out the webpages of some of the other fine cereal buffs whose links appear on the pages of this site. At the very least you might get some coupons or even products.
Strange Cereal Sightings
You stroll down the cereal aisle a little more slowly than the others, don't you??? Looking at all the cereal boxes... different colors and sizes, different lettering styles, some with prizes inside, some with coupons for free candy and treats, and some featuring mail-in offers for toys and stuff. Maybe you usually get the same brand or maybe you vary your cereal, but either way you still look at all of it. The cereal aisle at the supermarket is a magical place, that is true, although you might not see it change for years at a time.
Sooner or later, though, it does change. The prize offers on the boxes used to say "Free with 3 Proof-of-Purchase Seals". Now they say "Only $4.99 With 3 UPC Labels". The cereal names have changed, too. We seldom see names with words like "Brute" or "Freak" in them anymore. That just wouldn't be nice. And you may have notice that the word "Sugar" has been casually removed from all cereal titles, sometimes with blatantly ridiculous results. The other day, I actually saw a box of Kellogg's Smacks! All I can say is, poor old Sugar Bear must really be feeling oppressed these days...
The store-brand cereals are a trip these days, too. They've tried so hard to make them look like the name-brand varieties and use shelf space right next to them it's almost silly. Sometimes, though, if the truth be told, the Cocoa-Roos taste just as good as the Cocoa Puffs, and hey, look at that price tag! Ditto on store-brand toaster pastries.
Another somewhat bizarre addition to the shelves is the ever-growing Bagged Cereal section. Maybe they have actually been there for awhile, but I never noticed them as much. And yes, I know, it's in a bag anyway when it's in a box, but it still seems unnatural to me. They aren't bad either, though, and to my surprise most of them include a 'zip-lock' seal at the top of the bag. Most of the ones I've seen appear to have some nameless cartoon animal (giraffe, shark, lion, etc) as a "mascot" though it seems like they're just afraid of going "mascotless". My cheers to Quaker, anyway, for coming out with one or two that aren't just complete knock-offs of common boxed varieties. Sweet Crunch and Cinnamon Crunch seem unique, though I think they are probably just imitations of their Quisp and Jean Lafoote's Cinnamon Crunch. Bagged cereal is not a bad idea, but I don't believe it will be lucrative enough to the cereal companies in the long run.
Christmas is a good reason to crank out some special cereal packages, I guess. They have Capn Crunch Holiday Crunch, Holiday Rice Krispies, and probably a plethora of others that I haven't seen yet. These new choices brighten up the cereal aisles for a couple months every year, but unfortunately they usually tend to involve the addition of various marshmallows or other candy-like bits to the grains, which I don't like. So I just get to enjoy them visually.
Now, you might not expect to see much cereal action in other parts of the grocery store, but take another look. It's not just Snap Crackle and Pop who have made their way out of the breakfast nook anymore. First, still in the area... just beyond the Pop-Tarts and Pop-Tarts Pastry Swirls, right there below the Granola Bars and to the left of the premade Rice Krispie Treats. See them? It's the rather curious-looking Trix Bars and Peanut Butter Crunch Bars and probably Froot Loop Bars and Frosted Cheerios Bars, I don't know. I'm too scared too look at them for too long for fear I might have a mental breakdown or something. Too much for me to assimilate at this stage of the game. Keep going, though... push your shopping cart around the corner to the Handy Snacks pantry. I always loved to get those small bags of Frito Lay corn chips and potato chips in my lunchbox as a kid. They seemed so efficient to me. Well Kellogg's has picked up on the idea and I'm sure the other cereal companies will follow suit soon enough. You can now get a box of little single serving size bags of cereal intended, I assume, to be dry hand-to-mouth munchies. I hate them for making these, because I know I won't be able to resist the marketing strategy. I have always liked to take the little boxes in my backpack when I hike and/or camp, and these will be much better for that as far as package shape. The ones I saw had Apple Jacks, Froot Loops, Corn Pops, and something else, I forget... Anyway, I'll probably buy a few bags of them.
Basketball star Penny Hardaway has been seen slam dunking for Post Cereals a lot lately, with boxes of Honeycomb and Frosted Shredded Wheat sometimes being the only actual prize-bearing cereal boxes in sight. It's nice to see a celebrity so well focused on breakfast pleasure... maybe we'll see more big names adopting cereal company advertising departments in the days ahead.
I don't know what we'll see next. Holograms made a brief appearance in the 1990's and will probably continue to show up from time to time. They are cool but probably not insignificant when it comes to manufacturing cost. As for other new innovations in packaging and marketing, I'm sure they'll try a few things. As long as they leave Apple Jacks and Cinnamon Toast Crunch alone (and go back to the original Cocoa Puffs and Froot Loops), I'll be happy.
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