Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cereal on My Mind

After reading this, you may think I’m a little obsessive. My last post was about Cheerios, and here I am writing about breakfast cereal again. Well, in truth I am obsessive, but I do have an excuse – or at least an explanation.

I recently started a new job. It’s across town so, to beat rush hour traffic, I decided to start work at 7AM. To get there on time, I have to leave my house by 6:20AM, which in turn requires me to roll out of bed by about 5:45AM. Following this schedule, I usually land at my breakfast table with a bowl of cereal in front of me in the neighborhood of 6:05 each morning.

I’ve been me long enough to know that I will never be a morning person. At 6:05AM, my thoughts haven’t quite yet made the leap from dream logic to reality. I’m still convinced that there is a little green man inside my alarm clock whom I should be able to convince to stop changing the numbers while I sleep indefinitely. It is in this mental state that I find myself staring at cereal boxes. So, as I spew my pre-dawn thoughts about my breakfast at you, please be aware that I do have other Interests.

With that disclaimer firmly in place, I will now proceed with my Post®.

To start, why must the front of every cereal box include some form of the disclosure, “Enlarged to show texture”? It’s a picture for crying out loud! Do they really think we expect everything in photographs to be exactly life size? If so, why doesn’t the image on the back of the box of children playing soccer have a footnote that says, “Shrunken to fit on the box”? Who knows, maybe the absence of said footnote means the children really are that small. Maybe food companies are covering up the existence of a race of teeny people being exploited for advertising.

The fact that the, “Enlarged to show texture” tagline is so ubiquitous makes me wonder if there is an FDA regulation that requires it. If that is the case, then cold cereal is just way too regulated. If the government is going to force food manufactures to make disclosures on cereal boxes, they should at least be somewhat helpful. Maybe something like; “dextrose, galactose, fructose, sucrose, maltodextrin, and corn syrup ARE ALL JUST SUGAR!”

Another common note I see on cereal boxes is, “Serving suggestion”. This, I assume, is to make it clear that we won’t find fresh blueberries, eggs, toast, and a glass of orange juice inside the box. Now, I’m sure that cereal manufacturers are under no delusion that anyone actually heeds these serving suggestions. Still, I think the one pictured on my current box of Cheerios is pushing it (yes, I actually pulled this out of my pantry and scanned it):
I have nothing against strawberries in my cereal, or even eating from a heart shaped bowl. I will not, however, eat my Cheerios with diapers on top of them. Frankly I’m offended that they would suggest it.

Interestingly, the “Serving suggestion” footnote is absent on my box of Raisin Bran: I imagine they didn’t want to be culpable if someone decided to actually try this. It may look great in a photograph, but you should never sprinkle diamond shards on your cereal and eat it from a molten hot spoon.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Love Cheerios

I’m getting older. I’m fine with that; it’s an acceptable side effect of being alive. I don’t, however, like thinking of myself as ‘old’. The fact than I’m older than I was a year ago is indisputable. Whether or not that makes me ‘old’ is highly subjective – or at least it should be.

See, lately I’ve been getting phone calls from people who, for some inexplicable reason, seem compelled to inform me that I’m now a withered old raisin.

“Hello”, I answer the phone unsuspectingly.
“Hello, my name is Blah Blah, calling on behalf of Blah. Am I speaking with Mr. Hill?”
“Yes, this is Mr. Hill, how may I help you?”
“Mr. Hill, I’m just calling to inform you that you are a withered old raisin.”
“What a hurtful, hurtful thing to say.”
“Mr. Hill, this will only take a few minutes. May I continue?”

Of course I’m paraphrasing, but only slightly. The actual conversation goes something a little more like this:

“Mr. Hill, I am conducting a short survey. Before I begin, I need to ask you a few qualifying demographical questions, starting with your age. Are you a)Under 18, b)18-24, c)25-34, or d)35 and over?”
“Umm… I’m 35.”
“So, d) 35 and over?”
“No, not 35 'and over'. Just 35.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Hill, that’s not an option. I need to enter d) 35 and over.”
“Do you realize that you’ve just grouped me with George Burns?”
“I’m sorry Mr. Hill, I don’t understand that reference.”
“That’s because you’re b)18-24.”

To be fair, a year ago I was more than happy to be classified as '25-34', and I hardly ever belittled telephone surveyors about the unfairness of the generalization. Now, though, these meddling callers make me angry and embittered, and I have an irrepressible urge to rant about them to anyone who will listen. Plus my hip hurts.

Conversely, Cheerios make me feel spry, youthful, and giggly.

Why? Coincidentally, it's for exactly the same reason. They too have decided to segregate the population into age groups. They have recently divided the nutritional information listed on the side of their boxes into age appropriate columns.

This makes perfect sense to me. Obviously the recommended daily calorie intake for an adult is going to be different than it is for a child. Everyone should be doing this. And the best part? There are only two age groups: Under 4… and everyone else.

Brilliant! In a single, master stroke, Cheerios has made 4-year-olds feel all grown up, and 90-year-olds feel young.

Frankly, this new Cheerios age paradigm has changed my life. I’ve been marching around like the king of the world asking everyone I see to guess my age. Before they have a chance to awkwardly mumble something about not being very good with ages, I blurt out, “4 AND OVER! HA!”

Totally worth the three hours of musty Cheerio burps I have to endure after breakfast.