Monday, June 3, 2019

Killer Cereals

Guests often remark at my unusually large number of cereal boxes, and ask what's up with that. I reply, with glee, that as a grown-up I can have as much cereal as I want to. I can also get in my car and drive anywhere anytime without permission. I take great zest in the perqs of adulthood.

I'm a mixer. I used to consider this an eccentricity, but I've discovered that many other people mix cereals, too. I've settled on a repertoire of boxes selected for mixability, taste, and healthfulness:

Joe's O's (Trader Joe's) - better than Cheerios, though not as much better as they used to be. A great mixer, adding malty grit without occupying much bowl space.

Special K Red Berries - this is my equivalent of Peanutbutter Smurfs or whatever. Its sugar content is above my threshold (though still not all that high), and its fiber relatively low, but I mix it with homelier, healthier cereals to add a bit of sweet fruitiness, only eating it undiluted when I crave dessert (it's infinitely healthier than a brownie or slice of cheesecake).

Note that the best freeze-dried fruit cereal I've ever found (perhaps my favorite current cereal, period) is Jordan's Country Crisp with Strawberries, available only in UK and Canada (though it's sold on Amazon for a ridiculous sum). When I get my hands on a box, I pay the ultimate honor. I eat it with whole milk.
Ohmygodohmygod someone came up with a do-it-yourself recipe for Jordan's Country Crisp with Strawberries! Note that Trader Joe's sells good freeze-dried strawberries and good coconut oil.
Corn Chex. Rice Chex were never exactly zingy, but they've gotten blander and blander over time. At this point, they're effectively flavorless. Corn Chex are super corny, and the texture's great, to boot. Not much fiber, but not much sugar either. Combines well with Joe's Os. Contrasts provocatively with blueberries.
Quaker once made a divisive cereal called Crunchy Corn Bran that I really liked. It's been replaced with Corn Crunch, and the Crunchy Corn Bran fans are outraged by the new formula.
Nature's Path Organic Heritage Flakes "Ancient Grain". Cheap at Trader Joe's. Remember the old SNL commercial for "Colon Bow" cereal? This is heavy and crunchy, with more fiber than particle board. Good flavor, however. I sometimes eat it straight, but more normally add it, like medicine, to mix ins. It comes in a "Crunch" version which isn't half as fun as the manufacturer seems to think it is. It tastes like something eaten by angry nuns. Stick to the flakes.

Autumn Wheat is the only cereal that could be described as beautiful. It's made by the good Kashi product manager (in my head, there's a good one and a bad one. While there are atrocities in their line-up, akin to rabbit feed pellets, I always try new products in case it might stem from Kashi Dr. Jeckyll). There are versions of Autumn Wheat flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, berries, even chocolate, but I get horribly tired of them after a single box. Cereals must be subtle and enigmatic. If they commit to a really distinctive flavor, you'll easily tire of them (that's why I space out my Corn Chex). There's a reason cereals like Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes have been dominant for over a century. They're ultimately enigmatic; the David Bowie of breakfast cereals.

I have mixed history with Corn Flakes.
I once cooked up a theory that Corn Flakes causes amnesia. The moment you start eating them, you enter a deep bliss state which is utterly forgotten after the final bite, as you snap back to your previous opinion: Meh. Corn Flakes. Whatever. If aliens visited and tasted Corn Flakes, I maintained, and they were told they were available anywhere on the planet for mere pennies, they'd consider us a demented species for our failure to celebrate this blessing and to live our lives around it.
The problem is that as corn has become a tasteless, soulless food thanks to selective cultivation in the US (when was the last time you had an ear of corn that tasted like anything but pure cloying sugar?), Corn Flakes have lost their appeal. Although....hmmm. Maybe they haven't. It's quite possible they're as great as ever, but I'm cloaked in amnesia.

Years ago I did a massive granola tasting. Here's an update on the top picks: Love Grown Foods scaled massively and lost the love. Early Bird is still obscenely rich, obscenely good, and obscenely expensive, and Udi's has become ubiquitous (I haven't tried them in a while but have them mentally filed as "downhill"). Made to Crave went out of business years ago, and Ola is still out there, and has remained small, but I haven't mail ordered any since the tasting.

What about my beloved Quisp? Quaker brought it back - a dream come true - but it wasn't the same recipe. Not as much brown sugar flavor. What do you expect from a company named not "Quisper" but "Quaker"?

No highly-commercialized boxed cereals with nuts ever. They're always rancid.

My hot porridge recipe

1 comment:

Display Name said...

Thanks for the light read Jim. I stopped adding a pinch of sugar to my corn water a few years ago but I live in Pennsylvannia and get to buy corn grown right there. Frankenfield has nice bi corn but had a bad season last year. I'm trembling as I type this, scared that I will awaken the dread troll Husky Corn.

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