Cereal Killers

There was a time when breakfast cereal was a simple affair, and the endorsements were just as plain. You had Rice Krispies, with their trio of noise-making munchkins; the cuddly Tony the Tiger and his Frosties; and Corn Flakes, which has a pop-art rooster, surreal enough to make you wonder precisely what it was that made Mr. Kellogg rise and shine. But a recent stroll through the supermarket here revealed that cereals have become a good deal more…well, hardcore. Needless to say, TC sallied forth with an armful of the best, and bravely risked hypoglaecemia to bring you the following test results.

The Big Unit Breakfast
Sugar content: 37%
Best ingredient: Pyridoxine Hydrochloride

Randy Johnson is the star of our local baseball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and is known as the Big Unit, a somewhat obvious name given he measures up at 6’10”. He’s known for an intense demeanour, and has been voted the best pitcher in the league, three years in a row. Despite this, and a glower on the box stern enough to turn milk sour, his cereal is a meek-looking creature, being small and blandly O-shaped – shouldn’t it be K’s? [Explanation for British readers: baseball strike-outs, at which Johnson is the undisputed master, are known as K’s]

Their fine taste and excellent crunchy texture – even after soaking – thus came as a pleasant surprise. Admittedly, I’m not sure how much of it was due to the fact that we’d run out of regular milk and had to use diluted condensed milk instead. Attempts to replicate the experiment later with normal semi-skimmed failed, as the kids had already consumed the rest of the test subject. Which I guess is something of an endorsement in itself.

The cereal also provides a good workout, as from about half-way down, you have to expend serious effort, chasing the damn things round the bowl. I believe the baseball term for this is “a nasty slider on the corner of the plate”. [Explanation for British readers: a slider is a type of baseball pitch which…er, don’t worry about it – there will be no more obscure baseball jokes in this review] The box offers an opportunity to purchase an exclusive Big Unit T-shirt and hat; not very exciting, but some of the proceeds are going to help the homeless – and looking at the shirt, you’d probably have to be homeless to want to wear it. Still, Randy never claimed to be a fashion icon. Packaging D, Visual Appeal D-, Flavour B+

Sugar content: 42%
Best ingredient: Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil

In all likelihood, this will be coming soon to a remainder aisle near you, given the recent conversion of the WCW into a patsy for one member or another of Vince McMahon’s clan. But the mere presence of a breakfast cereal is perhaps symptomatic of the cancer which eventually ate the federation up. Never mind merchandising tie-ins, they failed to focus on basics, including the fact that stars such as Hulk Hogan were well past their sell-by date. Veteran wrestlers are fine when they’re good – the Hulkster was palpably not.

So what about the cereal? Much the same, I’m afraid. The early signs are good, the words “cocoa frosted flakes” promising an intense sugar rush, and it turns the milk an intensely chocolate shade in short order. But the taste… Whatever it is, chocolate doesn’t appear to be involved: reading the ingredients, I see “cocoa (treated with alkali)”, and it would appear as if rather more of the latter than the former made it into the finished product.

Indeed, as I write this, I notice on the bottom of the packet the words, “100% Recycled Paperboard”, and can’t help wondering if that figure includes the actual cereal as well as the packaging. You can also get it in Goldberg flavour (similar, except without the chocolate), but I imagine our packet of that will be stored away in a safe place. Five years down the line, we’ll hopefully be able to auction it on Ebay (“mint – in original box”) to some collector, and make our money back. Packaging C, Visual Appeal B-, Flavour E+

The Powerpuff Girls
Sugar content: 30%
Best ingredient: Carbon dioxide

If it came to a steel cage death-match, there’s no doubt that Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup would take down those noisy pixies, Snap, Crackle and Pop. The merchandising monster behind the Cartoon Network’s biggest stars rumbles steadily on, with this double-barrelled sound machine, which takes Rice Krispies to the next dimension. These don’t only pop in the bowl. By incorporating Pop Rocks (a.k.a. Space Dust) – in colours which somehow manage to be both garish and pastel simultaneously – they also pop during actual consumption. This provokes some interesting scientific questions: how do they distinguish between milk in the bowl and saliva in your mouth?

Nutritionally, this is probably the most dubious of the three, with any dietary benefit being outweighed by the additional candy elements. One also wonders whether your stomach would explode if you ate too much, though the ratio is low enough that you’d probably keel over from a Krispie overdose first. Tastewise, they’re not significantly different from regular RK’s, since the Pop Rocks seem to have no taste of their own.

Nice box though, brightly coloured, and with the shiny patch at bottom left an attention-grabbing beacon. It is also the only one of the three to offer any non-commercial activity, with a comic-strip on the back and a couple of puzzles, as well as a code for the EETandERN website (www.EETandERN.com); in this case, “2JM2-NQMK-K9R2-798”. Packaging B+, Visual Appeal B, Flavour C-