Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Best and the Worst: Breakfast Cereals

From the time I was a little kid, breakfast cereal was a major staple of my daily nutritional routine.  I'm not just talking breakfast, either, I'd have Cap'n Crunch for an after-school snack, Lucky Charms for dinner, whatever was available, and as long as Mom kept the fridge stocked with milk, it was all good.

Well, maybe not ALL good.  Because, let's face it, some cereals are flat-out terrible.

So let's take a look at the best and the worst, shall we?  Grab a spoon, 'cause here we go!


1. Cap'n Crunch

The Cap'n is the winner, hands down.  Sweet, crunchy, and delicious, there has simply never been a better cereal in the entire history of Kellogg's.  Or General Mills, whoever the hell makes it.  Anyway, I know some of you will complain about the texture of Cap'n Crunch, and I will admit that I've suffered some early morning, roof-of-the-mouth abrasions from time to time, but in the end it's worth it.  Besides, I've learned that if you let the cereal sit for a few minutes, not to the point of sogginess, mind you, but just a little while . . . it takes the raspy edge off.  I should also mention that I'm only talking about the original Cap'n Crunch cereal here, not the version with Crunch Berries (though they're okay), and I'm certainly not going to include the mutant Peanut Butter Crunch.  That stuff is just disgusting.

2. Lucky Charms

Raise your hand if you've ever picked out all the oat pieces and had a bowl of nothing but the marshmallows.  Me too.  But let's be honest, how disappointing was it a few days later when you had to throw away a three-quarters full box of Lucky Oats and then have your mother ask, "What the heck happened to the box of Lucky Charms I bought a few days ago?"  The key, of course, was to keep each bowl balanced so you could get a marshmallow or three in every lovin' spoonful.

While we're on the subject of Lucky Charms marshmallows, though, I do have a complaint.  They've taken the whole thing way too far.  When I was a kid, we had yellow moons, orange stars, pink hearts, and green clovers.  That was it.  Then the blue diamonds came along, and they were fine, nothing worth getting in a snit over.  But now?  Lucky the Leprechaun has just gone friggin' berzerk!  Rainbows, purple horseshoes, pots of gold, red balloons . . . enough is enough already!

But they're still yummy.

3. Frosted Flakes

As Tony says, "They're GRRRRRR-EAT!"  As long as you don't let them get too soggy, Kellogg's Frosted Flakes definitely make the top five.  They're not fancy, but they get the job done.  I'm generally not big on adding fruit to a cereal, the thought being if a bowl of cereal can't stand on its own, it's not worth the trouble.  However, I'll make an exception when it comes to Frosted Flakes and sliced bananas.  Simply divine.

Frosted Flakes are also quite versatile.  The next time you're at the grocery store, pick up a quart of vanilla ice cream and a box of Frosted Flakes.  When you get home, dish out a heaping bowl of the ice cream and smother it with the cereal, and you'll have a cold, creamy, crunchy dessert fit for a king.  Or a tiger, even.

4. Super Sugar Crisp

I know, I know, you're thinking, "What's the difference between Super Sugar Crisp and Sugar Smacks?  Aren't they exactly the same?"

No, they are not.

Sure, they're both puffed rice covered with some sort of sweet glaze and sugar, and they look kind of like miniature sea shells, but there's one huge difference.  The mascot.  The Sugar Smacks representative is a weird frog that says, "Dig 'em," a phrase that was barely cool in the 70's and is woefully out-dated now.  On the other hand, Super Sugar Crisp's spokesman is the ultra-hip Sugar Bear, who has been preaching the virtues of his cereal for decades without losing any of his cultural relevance.

Perhaps I'm over-stating it just a touch.

But it's great cereral, no question about it.  And I'll admit it, the stuff that Dig 'Em the frog sells isn't bad either.

5. Apple Jacks

"A is for apple, J is for jacks, cinnamon, toasty Apple Jacks!  You need a good breakfast, that's a fact, start it off with Apple Jacks.  Apple Jacks!  Apple Jacks!  Vitamins and minerals, that's what it packs . . . "

Okay, I may have gotten carried away.

Basically, you can never go wrong by making something out of apples and cinnamon.  Strudel, pie, ice cream, you name it, if it's apple-cinnamon, it's delicious.

Apple Jacks are also the best of the "loop-type" cereals.  Froot Loops, Cheerios, Honey Bunches of Crap, none of them are fit to carry Apple Jacks's milk pitcher. 


1. Quangaroos

What's that?  You've never heard of them?

I'm not surprised, actually.  I believe Quangaroos were only available in certain parts of the country and for a limited time.  They were a "spin-off" cereal from the more popular (but still relatively obscure) Quisp and Quake.  Remember those guys?  Quisp was the weird-looking spaceman dude with a propeller on his head, and Quake was first a miner, but then somehow transformed into a cowboy-like character from the Australian outback.  I swear, I'm not making this up.  And that's where Quangaroo comes in.  He was Quake's buddy, or pet, or something.

Anyway, Quangaroos cereal consisted of bright orange balls. kind of like radioactive Cocoa Puffs, if you can imagine that.  They tasted weird, and had a very disturbing side effect.


I was about ten years old.  One Saturday morning I went to make myself breakfast and was disappointed to discover that my brother Eric had eaten the last of the chocolate frosted Pop Tarts.  Not wanting to go hungry, I rummaged through the kitchen cabinets and all I could find was a brand new box of Quangaroos.  I ate about four bowls of the stuff, weird taste be damned.  Flash forward about three hours, and I'm sitting on the toilet.  I do my business, and when I look into the bowl (toilet, not cereal) I discover that I've just pinched out a giant carrot.  I kid you not, it was that orange.

Quangaroos.  Not for those with weak stomachs.

2. Grape Nuts

Grape Nuts are the most inaccurately-named product ever invented.  They aren't grape-flavored, and there's not a single nut in the entire box.  But I think I understand why the powers-that-be at Post decided to go with it anyway.  It's because no one would buy a cereal called Oaty-Tasting Bits O' Gravel.

Seriously, while Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles aren't made from real pebbles, I think that Grape Nuts actually are.  Unless you let them sit in the milk for two days, you're liable to break a tooth on the first spoonful.  I don't even want to think what this stuff does to the digestive tract.

No grapes.  No nuts.  No thanks.

3. Reese's Puffs

Here we have two pictures:

One of these pictures is Reese's Puffs, the other is dry dog food.  Can you tell which is which?  Probably not, unless you tasted them.  At which point you'd find you had one bowl of disgusting-tasting gristle not fit for human consumption, and another bowl that contained dog food.

I'm not a fan of peanut butter cereal in general.  Don't get me wrong, peanut butter is great for many, many things.  Sandwiches.  Toast.  Apple slices.  Hell, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are among my all-time favorite candies.

But cereal?  Bleh.

4. Special K

Here's what I'm picturing.

Somewhere along the line, a well-meaning Kellogg's employee looked at a box of Wheaties and saw a picture of a famous gold medal-winning Olympian.  Maybe it was Michael Phelps, Mary Lou Retton, or perhaps even Bruce Jenner.  Doesn't matter.  Seeing an opportunity, the Kellogg's guy probably thought, "Hey, what would happen if the Special Olympics were sponsored by a different breakfast cereal?"

Enter Special K.

Before we spin completely off the rails here, I'm just going to say that Special K cereal is about as bland a food item as you could possibly come up with.  My grandmother used to keep her kitchen well-stocked with the stuff (along with Product 19, which is no better), so whenever my brothers and I spent the night, we were treated to a breakfast of Special K and half a grapefruit.

Good thing we liked grapefruit.

Now go donate fifty bucks to the Special Olympics.  Ease my guilt a little.

5. Cocoa Puffs

Honestly, I could have chosen a lot of cereals for this spot.  Cocoa Pebbles, Count Chocula, Cocoa Krispies.  Basically, chocolate cereal sucks.  Of course you're all thinking, "But Chris!  When you finish eating a bowl of Cocoa Puffs, you've got a bowl of chocolate milk!"

To which I say, big friggin' deal.  I'd rather have a bowl of Cap'n Crunch and a tall glass of Nestle's Quik.  The best of both worlds.

With so many crappy chocolate cereals to choose from, why, you might ask, did I single out Cocoa Puffs?

Here's the reason.

It's because of that God-awful, annoying, teeth-gnashingly obnoxious bird they have in the commercials.  "I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!  Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!"

I'd love for someone to snap, crackle, and pop that bastard's spinal column.


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Linda said...

Quisp won my vote in the popularity contest between it and Quake. I was disappointed not to see Trix anywhere on your lists.

Moooooog35 said...


Also, I disagree with your 'super sugar crisp' crap because I'd take dog food/reese's puffs over that garbage any day.

What is that? A bear? Rottweiler? At least get a non-confused mascot for chrissakes.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

I never understood Kellogg All-Bran. Basically, a bowl of unflavored twigs.

Suldog said...

A comparative analysis of breakfast cereals. Sheer brilliance, my friend. Why I didn't think of doing this during the 5+ years I've been filling space with words is a mystery to me.

Quake was my all-time favorite. I used to eat Jethro-sized bowls of that crap.

(If you ever saw one of the scenes in The Beverly Hillbillies when he poured himself a bowl of cornflakes, you'd know what I meant by that. I think Kellogg's must have been their sponsor.)

Of the cereals still extant, I do enjoy the Loops of Froot (though they tend to damage the roof of the mouth in a similar fashion to Cap'n Crunch, unless you let them soak for a minute.) And I couldn't agree more about Special K being execrable. I had similar experiences at a maiden aunt's house. It didn't matter how much sugar you loaded it with, it still sucked.

Eva Gallant said...

sugar pops are tops!

corticoWhat said...

While your "Best" list has major holes in it (you call those marshmallows), your "Worst" list was dead on.

00dozo said...

Ah, you missed one of the best ones: Cocoa Krispies. I wasn't much of a cereal fan, but I'll give those a thumbs up. Due to age, unfurtunately, I am now regulated to Raisin Bran, Total or similar digestively motivating foods (which really aren't really half bad if you add a banana).

Deeds said...

First and foremost - you crack me up, EVERY time I read your blog! I appreciate that!

Second, just a little unknown fact for you and all your cereal loving readers...
In Japan, many of the restaurants have a soft-serve ice cream machines-which is the dessert of choice. And beside almost every machine is a bowl of Frosted Flakes (well, Frosties - as they are called here) and a bottle of chocolate syrup!

I guess you AND them have a heads up on the rest of us!!!

J.J. in L.A. said...

I'm sad. I was a deprived child (depravity came at adulthood) surviving only on Cheerios and Wheaties.

I haven't had any of these but I have to disagree about chocolate flavored cereals. Chocolate Cheerios is pretty awesome. Honey Nut sucks.

Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

Before packing peanuts found something more useful to do my mother used to serve them up as breakfast cereal in the form of puffed sugar, no prize and they came in a dog food sized bag that was sealed up with an Oliver Twist tie.

I had to go to the streets for my Sugar Smacks...


Jeff said...

Product 19 always cracked me up. I always imagine that the marketing guy lost it one day... "I've had to come up with names for 18 lame cereals already. Screw it. You deal with product 19!"

notactuallygod said...

Where are the Fruit Loops? Leaving them out is like leaving Pete Rose off the baseball list, Super off the bowl list, or Hitler off the mustache list.

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

Shredded Wheat = dried hay, unless it sat in milk and became a soggy sponge.
"...a giant carrot" word pictures are great.

Knucklehead said...

@Linda: I was never a big Trix fan, though I did vote for Quisp in that same election. I did vote "No" on letting the rabbit eat Trix, though. Because after all, Trix are for kids.

@Moog: We must agree to disagree, then. Peanut butter does not belong in cereal.

@Dr. G: Exactly. Bowl of lawn clippings or whatever. Ugh.

@Suldog: Froot Loops would've made my top ten, probably. And Toucan Sam was pretty cool, as far as cereal mascots go.

@Eva: I agree. Definitely top ten or twelve, anyway.

@CorticoWhat: Well, cereal version of marshmallows, anyway.

@Dozo: Chocolate cereal never did it for me, can't really explain why.

@Deeds: Well thanks! And I may have to visit Japan.

@JJ: Cheerios and Wheaties? I'm so sorry.

@Rene: Ah yes, Styrofoamios. Disgusting. And where would you get your Sugar Smacks, the local smack dealer?

@Jeff: Yeah, I always though Product 19 should be a code for the deadly stuff in nuclear missiles or something.

@NotActuallyGod: Froot Loops. Not bad, but definitely not top five, either. And Hitler would only be third on the mustache list behind Rollie Fingers and Tom Selleck.

@IT: Couldn't agree more about Shredded Wheat. There's about a ten second window of texture-acceptability.

--Tumbleweed said...

For me, Apple Jacks would have scored higher (and I have a huge weakness for Grape Nut custard), but I totally agree with your assessment of chocolate cereal. It never did much for me, either.

Trooper Thorn said...

The Cap'n gave us the best tasting end-of-meal milk to drink too; loaded with sugar and corn starch. I was a big fan of Honeycomb, but despite the advertizers claim that Honeycomb wasn't small (no, no, no) those comb pieces sure look small now.

Fred Miller said...

I can't believe you left out Fiber One (with 57% of the RDA of fiber!) Love it! Even though it looks like rat turds.

Boom Boom Larew said...

Lucky Charms are still my favorite! They're magically delicious! (Although, I have to confess I also like grape nuts and Special K... I'm weird like that.)

I'm Jane said...

Am ALL about the Sugar Pops.

And, come on, Cheerios is a perfect food.

Gotta throw Kix into the mix too....except if you fill your bowl a little too high, the little bastards run all over the place.

Phillipia said...

Damn, Chris. Cocoa Puffs was the only cereal I could stomach as a kid...yeah, I was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

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