If you're out of cereal, you need to head to the store and buy some, because you'll need your favorite cereal tomorrow morning to help celebrate National Cereal Day.
It makes perfectly good sense that we have a National Cereal Day. I enjoy cereal. Some people – comedian Jerry Seinfeld, for example – love and adore cereal. Most patriotic Americans eat cereal.
I have been eating and enjoying cereal since I was big enough to hold a bowl of cereal and milk as I watched Saturday morning kid shows on our black-and-white television way back when. Some of those shows were cartoons and some were westerns. All of them fed us a steady diet of cereal commercials.
In between exciting episodes of "Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok," starring Guy Madison, and "The Lone Ranger," featuring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, and "The Roy Rogers Show," spotlighting my hero Roy Rogers, cereal commercials tried to persuade us to tell our moms which cereals to purchase at the neighborhood grocery store. Quaker's cereal ads told us that its delicious Quaker Puffed Wheat and Quaker Puffed Rice were shot from guns; Sugar Bear told us he couldn't get enough of those Post Sugar Crisps; and good ol' Sugar Pops Pete said he could rustle up enough Sugar Pops for everyone, and he ensured us that Sugar Pops were tops.
Say, that's a lot of sugar. In the previous paragraph, I used the word "sugar" five times. Obviously, many moms back then were not worried about us kids ingesting bowls of sugar. Eventually, of course, mothers came to their senses and figured out that too much sugar was too crazy. The cereal companies fixed that problem in short order. They simply changed the names of their super-sweet breakfast chow. For instance, Sugar Pops became Corn Pops, which is their name today, and I still love them!
People who want to be healthy these days have plenty of healthful cereals to choose from, and I try to be of a healthful mind as I'm picking out my cereal at the store. I go for the rice, corn and oat varieties, with very little sugar. I try to stay away from wheat, especially white wheat flour, so I usually pick alternate grains, reserving my little bit of wheat intake for things like French baguette bread. My favorite cereal is Cheerios. It's all oats and all good. Sometimes I go for Honey Nut Cheerios, convincing myself that those nutritious little oat rings are covered with healthful honey, even though I realize that the sweetness is mostly from sugar. However, I'm not a horse; I sometimes need a delicious coating of sugary sweetness on my oats. And if the Honey Nut Cheerios are on sale in the commissary at nearby Scott Air Force Base, I will buy a box or two or three.
One evening earlier this week, I munched on cereal as I watched "The Voice" on our television in the bedroom. I sat on the bed and watched and listened and munched and crunched. My delicious cereal was a mix of corn flakes, original Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios. All three boxes of those cereals were getting low, so I combined them all into one box. By the way, the corn flakes were not Kellogg's Corn Flakes. They were Ralston Corn Flakes. I always buy what's cheapest, especially when I know damn well that the cheaper brand is going to taste just as good as or better than the more expensive one.
My wife has repeatedly told me how, as a special treat, she sometimes got to eat corn flakes with a little sugar and milk for dessert when she was a kid. I guess I'm supposed to appreciate how life was harder in 1950s Norway. The corn-flakes story goes along with those stories about walking to school in the deep snow and about how long the days were so dark during Norwegian winters. Please, spare me, and please pass me those Honey Nut Cheerios, dear.
By the way, there's a clever Cheerios joke here in Illinois. It goes something like this: What's the difference between Cheerios and the University of Illinois? Cheerios belong in a bowl.
Come on, people, smile. That was funny. It was a little bit funny, right? Well, I know something that will make you smile: Rice Krispies Treats. Heck, yeah! I'm talking about cereal in the form of a treat, a goodie, a sweet snack. If you don't know what I'm talking about, perhaps you live on Mars. Earthbound kids – and grownups, too, mind you – have been lovin' Rice Krispies Treats for decades. Everybody loves them because they're made from butter, marshmallows and Kellogg's Rice Krispies. You just mix those luscious ingredients, pack the mix into a 13x9x2 pan, let them cool, and then cut and serve. Is it cereal? Is it candy? Is it a cookie delight? Whatever, chowhounds. Let's just say it's handheld cereal goodness from food heaven.
You know what else is made from cereal and has had people snacking and smacking with joy for decades? Chex Mix! Original Chex Mix calls for Corn Chex, Rice Chex, Wheat Chex, mixed nuts, mini pretzels, bagel chips, butter, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, garlic powder and onion powder. Toss that stuff into a bowl and microwave it a minute; then dump it onto a cookie sheet and bake in a regular oven for about 10 minutes; next, cool the stuff on paper towels; finally, put it into serving bowls and enjoy.
If you're a wheat-free or gluten-free snacker and want to eat some delicious Chex Mix, just eliminate the Wheat Chex, pretzels and bagel chips. Try this: Corn Chex, Rice Chex, cashews, Japanese mini rice-cracker snacks, butter, Worcestershire sauce, Creole seasoning and Lawry's garlic salt. If you're simply a lazy snacker and want any kind of Chex Mix, go to the supermarket and grab a couple of bags of ready-to-eat Chex Mix, which you'll probably find near the nuts, unless your store displays them near the chips and other bagged snacks.
While cereal can be a delicious and healthful snack – or maybe not – cereal is most often eaten as a breakfast staple. We've been enjoying cereal and milk in the morning since the 1800s, when some inventive folks decided that Americans were starting every day by eating too much bacon, sausage, ham and eggs. Dr. James Caleb Jackson, who might be thought of as the health nut of the 19th century, created something he called Granula, made from graham flour. It was so hard, folks had to soak it in milk to make it edible. Hey, folks, that's cereal. And so it was.
If you are thinking that Granula sounds a lot like granola, it's no accident. John Harvey Kellogg came up with a product similar to Dr. J's and called it Granula, too. That's a lawsuit in the making if ever there was one, and it became one, so Kellogg switched out one letter, making his cereal stuff Granola. To make a long story short, as I often do by using that old cliché, John Kellogg and his brother Will Kellogg tinkered with cereal recipes until they came up with the first cereal flakes, which became their Granose Flakes, which became Kellogg's Corn Flakes. To overuse another cliché, the rest is history.
It is not, however, time for a history lesson. It is time to eat some cereal. It is also a good time to go to the store, in case you are out of cereal. Tomorrow is an important national day, and you must be prepared to observe it properly. Also make sure you have enough milk. Sugar is optional.