Considering a career in the alimentary-research field? Think twice, for you will spend many a greyish-green hour whomping room-temperature cream of mushroom onto sidewalks, to compare its similarity to vomit with that of tapioca; grinding off-brand cheese puffs in a pestle until you develop RSI; and horrifying first dates and prospective in-laws by comparing the top note of a lobster cracker to bacterial vaginosis.
But if you can get through a worthy tome like The Great American Cereal Book: How Breakfast Got Its Crunch by Marty Gitlin and Topher Ellis without requiring an Alka-Seltzer or a meditation break, you just might have a future in this business.
TGACB is a tirelessly researched, gorgeously illustrated, and astonishingly straight-faced encyclopedic history of the cold-cereal industry. Readers will learn that SpongeBob and Hannah Montana have their own cereals, for instance, and that General Mills VP John Holahan invented the tiny versions of marshmallows we find in breakfast cereals — known within the industry as “marbits” — by cutting up a Brach’s circus peanut. (He subsequently eluded justice.) It’s also an invaluable window into the metric tonnes of horseshit the naïve American consumer would put up with in decades gone by.
The B.A.R.F. has compiled a (Cheeri-)overview of the lowlights, both the cereals themselves and a few of the more egregious forgotten mascots. We highly recommend experiencing the book for yourselves, however.
“Girl Cootie Crunch” didn’t survive the first draft, evidently.
Without the equally off-putting mascot, “Bixby Beaver,” Crunchy Loggs might have avoided the association with turds in the punchbowl. Alas.
Fiesta Fruity Pebbles with Confetti Sprinkles
As a result of a parental sugar-cereal embargo that continues to this day, Dr. Bunting spent most of the ’80s craving the most diabetically sugar-laden breakfast foods on the market, but this would have been a Pixy Stik too far even for her.
Description. How to pronounce the name of the airy chocolate bar? “Uno,” like the game? “You know,” as if eating the bar confers upon the consumer membership in an elite — albeit boring and fat-logged — secret club?
Our tester has chosen to go with “ooh…no.” The only discernible reason for selecting a chocolate novelty as dull as the U-No is the hope that its stratospherically high fat content will induce a stroke.
Packaging/Branding. A sleek silver wrapper and mid-century lettering belie the utter tedium of the product within.
The candy’s cheery attempt to spin its utterly uninteresting stale-pudding center as a delicate truffle is a deluded failure.
Description. A burnt-orange tube, dusted with pollen intended to evoke coconut, the Chick-O-Stick has nothing to do with chicken, although the color is reminiscent of buffalo-wing sauce.
The cross-sectioned Stick, a shiny moon-rock-y affair that resembles a ’70s-sci-fi set-design element, has nothing to do with anything found in nature — except possibly feces (the manner in which the peanut flecks are disported…enough said, we trust).
Packaging/Branding. The font and package shapes recall mid-century diner culture. Meanwhile, the company logo’s star and the product name’s label share the same nuclear-meltdown orange as the Stick, and the transparent cellophane makes no attempt to hide or even lessen the visual impact of the homely snack within — a zen attitude our testers almost admire.
Description. A wax tube of circus-colored corn syrup is one of the pleasures or activities of childhood that simply does not translate to adult life. It is constituted entirely of sugar, adulterated with chemicals, and it is a messy and disappointing hassle to consume. Children have rabid sweet teeth, plenty of free time, and no involvement with dry cleaning or at-home stain removal; slurping blue sugar water out of a tiny wax phallus does not strike them as inappropriate.
Adults, on the other hand, have absolutely no reason to associate with the Wax Syrup Stick and its terrifying array of food dyes. Our tester tried every possible mode of consumption, in search of the one that would not ikat her clothing with a Yellow 6 Rorschach series, and her notepad at the end of this failed endeavor looked like the NORAD screen during the missile-code sequence in WarGames: incisor shear, molar shear, scissor and knife incisions, manual snap, pinhole, supra-sink, bib method, spoon edge, gravity press.
And for what, she wondered after changing her shirt. For a taste experience she could replicate by licking an IKEA Tindra.