Friday, February 18, 2011

Breakfast Cereal

As I sat down this a.m. and had breakfast with my mother-in-law who is 86 and loves to combine Oatmeal Squares and Special K, I thought back to my days growing up and the various cereals that we used to eat.

The first cereal I truly remember eating was Honey Combs when we first moved to our new house in Menan. In fact, Honey Combs was the source of our inaugural breakfast. I still remember pouring them into my bowl, a plastic one, and then pouring milk on top of them. We ate heartedly that morning. Even soaked in milk, Honey Combs still float. Seriously. They float. Actually, I like Honey Combs plain, right out of the box. They probably should just be a snack cereal.

Now, Corn Flakes, another cereal that my mother preferred to buy, don’t necessarily float. My father used to take those huge flakes and crush them prior to eating. I could never figure out why he did that. If you wanted crushed Corn Flakes, you could always wait until the box was done. Nobody I know wants to finish off the box of any type of cereal. Usually, all is left are crumbs.

One of the things my mother used to make for us, especially in cold weather, which was from about October 30 to April 1st in eastern Idaho, was Cream of Wheat. Now, I am not knocking Cream of Wheat per se, but my mother would begin the batch just as we went out to do the chores. Most of you know that Cream of Wheat can be cooked in about 2.5 minutes. So, this Cream of Wheat would sit for the next twenty minutes. Once we came in, we were introduced to thick and lumpy Cream of Wheat. That’s why I cannot stand the stuff today—too many lumps, way too thick, and often not a bit warm.

One of the tradition my wife and I started early in our marriage was buying our favorite cereal at Christmas and placing it along side our stockings. When the girls got old enough, we bought their favorite cereal, and it became part of their stockings. They loved it. They couldn’t wait for morning to come to see what kind of cereal was next to their stockings.

Basic Four has become my Christmas cereal. I usually buy it only at Christmas and when it is on sale, which is almost never. I love the flavor of “delicious blend of sweet and tangy fruits, crunchy nuts and a wholesome variety of grains.” There is something to congregating all that stuff into one yummy cereal.

Now, with our maturing years sliding over us like early morning fog on the Snake River, some of the good cereal—you know, the kind with loads of sugar in it—has gone by the wayside. When I cruise the cereal aisle, which in most stores is the most frequented aisle in the store aside from the candy aisle, I am amazed at the number of different kinds and brands. There are names of cereals I can’t even pronounce or even want to eat. I have to bypass those sugary ones although I often glance quickly at them. Don’t tell Joanne, but I sometimes take a lingering glance, trying to remember what they tasted like. But I succumb to the findings of my last cholesterol test and move on--reluctantly.

Of course, Joanne has us eating more oatmeal than ever before. Lately, we have been spicing it up with Craisins (dried Cranberries) and Planters Mix Nuts (“less than 50% peanuts and made with pure Sea Salt”). My mother-in-law doesn’t put any sugar on hers. On the other hand, I still have to have a teaspoon—usually a heaping one—of brown sugar to make it palatable. Once the brown sugar has been stirred in thoroughly, though, I find oatmeal to be rather tasty.

Whoever said that breakfast cereal was the bane of our existence probably never had a bowl of Honey Combs, Lucky Charms, Basic Four, or Oatmeal Squares.

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