Notes on Pop Culture: Cereals Gone By

I am a breakfast cereal fiend. If no one stops me, I'm known to eat a full box in one sitting. I can debate the merits of name-brand vs. off-brand Crunch Berries at great length. Cereal is one of fairly few foods that I can't recreate in my kitchen - when a type of cereal is gone, it's gone forever. Some of the cereals made to promote a certain movie only last a few months, and there are many that I haven't eaten in 20 years. But I remember them clearly. A few cereals of yesteryear:

E.T. - this was a chocolate peanute butter cereal with a taste similar to the modern Reese's cereal, but a texture closer to that of Alpha-Bits. You got more of a full flavor in your mouth, the same way a mouthful of Fruity Pebbles is more substantial than a mouthful of Trix.

Fruity Yummy Mummy - a very short-lived cousin to Count Chocula and the other monster cereals. Like Fruit Brute before it, the fact that this guy just couldn't make up his mind about what flavor he wanted to be kept it from finding much of an identity, and he didn't last long. The fruit + marshmallows was done much better, for my money, by the late, lamented Ghost Busters cereal. I do remember a kid trick-or-treating at my house in a Yummy Mummy costume the year these things were out - the joke he told (as one must do to get candy in Des Moines, where we don't give out something for nothing, like commies) was copies right off the back of the box. I don't remember the question, but the answer was "Fruity Yummy Mummy."

Smurfberry Crunch - Not unlike Chrunch Berries, but with a higher berry-to-corn ratio. The Smurfs also had better chewable vitamins than the Flintstones - they had a skittle-like consistency. I remember carrying around tiny Tupperware containers of this in my parents' "old old" house that we moved out of when I was about 3. I used to eat them in the bathroom. Class is no concern of 3 year olds.

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Nintendo Cereal - in the late 80s/early 90s, we would have eaten just about anything with a Nintendo logo on the box. This stuff had a gimmick of being two cereals in one - instead of one big bag in the box, there were two little ones side by side. Neither were very good, though, and the small bags tended to slide out of the box. Nerds cereal tried a similar gimmick, and at least came out tasty in the process.

Ice Cream Cones - any time cereal enthusiasts from the 80s start to talking, this one comes up: the cereal was shaped like miniature ice cream cones and had a vanilla taste. Pretty good, but they tore up your mouth even worse than Cap'n Crunch. I seem to recall the cone part being like Golden Grahams, but I could be off there; cetainly they were overpowered by the vanilla.

Crispy Critters - a lightly-sweetened corn cereal that I remember mainly as having very large, smooth pieces. You could only get a few in your mouth at once, and the idea of eating bugs just didn't have that much appeal.

Pac Man - shorter-lived than the Pac Man Pasta, this stuff was sort of like Kix with marshmallows. I remember liking it, but it sounds awful to me now.

OJs - another old favorite that just doesn't sound appetizing anymore: the cereal that was supposed to taste like orange juice, but really just tasted about like a bowl of Trix that was heavy on the citrus pieces. I had the commercial on a tape of 80s cartoons that was among my only ways to revisit the 80s for most of the 90s. I got started on nostalgia early - in our fast-paced world, you can probably market nostalgia products to most 10 year olds.

S'mores - they've brought this back now and then, but it isn't the same: the 80s version was essentially Golden Grahams with some chocolate and marshmallow bits. The newer incarnations generally try to blend the graham and chocolate pieces into one big piece. Big mistake. S'more-flavored products that aren't actual s'mores are generally awful; this and a limited edition Edy's ice cream from last summer are the major exceptions.

Fruity Marshmallow Krispies - one hears reports that this still exists somewhere in the world, and I hope the reports are true - the frosted and fruit-tinged Rice Krispies with the marshmallow bits were gloriously tasty - far better than the chunky Rice Krispie Treats cereal they tried in the 90s.

Spider-Man Cereal - the idea of Crispix-like cereal with marshmallows doesn't SOUND like it would work, but it did.

Cabbage Patch Kids Cereal - the taste of these was not unlike the taste of Cap'n Crunch (which, itself, is not unlike the taste of Quisp or King Vitaman), but the flat, round disks were easier on the mouth. I had the commercial on the same tape as my OJs commercial, and I could sing the jingle right now if I felt like it. Luckily for you, I don't.

C-3POs - These looked like Alpha-bits and tasted like a somewhat less-sugary version of them (though they were a darned sight better than the modern sugar-free Alpha-bits that taste like cardboard). I had this commercial on tape, too, and I was never angrier at my litte sister than I got the day she taped over it with a bunch of 'nsync stuff in the late 90s.

Croonchy Stars - the Swedish Chef's own cereal tasted about like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but with a vastly different consistency that was harder on the mouth.

Morning Funnies - who could resist a cereal that tasted like bad off-brand Trix and featured Dennis the Menace and the Family Circus on the box? Everyone, that's who.

GI Joe Stars - these must have been good for you or something. They were a half-way flavorful corn cereal, a sort of thinner version of Pro Stars, which came later. Not the kind of thing you get a craving for, or would ever think to buy if GI Joe wasn't on the box. I wasn't exactly forbidden to play with GI Joe, but my mom didn't like them and steered me away from them. I managed to acquire a few of them anyway, saw the show enough to get the gist of it, and had this cereal from time to time.

Some more of my ramblings on this fascinating subject

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Adam's New Book: Sept 2013