Sunday, April 22, 2018

Top 20 Cereals of the Last 40 Years: The Mount Rushmore

Unless you have been sleeping under a rock for the last month, you have been on the edge of your seat waiting for the day to come when I would reveal the best cereal of the last 40 years.  By now, it is highly likely that you have scrolled to the bottom and ruined the surprise.  But, if by chance you are a purist when it comes to lists and have stuck with me for this long, maybe you will stay just a little bit longer.

This was never about the cereal.  Okay, maybe it was a little about the cereal.  But in reality, this was always about the journey that I wanted to take the reader on.  This was a way for me to let you peer inside my childhood years and see why I developed a lifelong passion for cereal.  Not many things other than Star Wars have encompassed my entire life like cereal.  It likely taught me to read, having spent every morning staring at the side of the box wondering what riboflavin was and why the cereal inside was providing me with 20% of my daily requirements of it.  This list also reflects the quirkiness of my nature in the fact that I made a list of my top 20 cereals of the last 40 years.  Who does that?  This guy.

And this was also about the writing.  Having started writing about the same time I started eating cereal, this was a chance to return to my roots.  I wrote my first novella at age 16,  But the years that followed were more filled with engineering technical pieces and running race reports than with the type of writing that I truly enjoy.  I have dipped into that passion from time to time over the last few years with my series on the rare virus that attacks my vocal cords and how it has changed my life, but you have to be close family or my mom to enjoy reading those words.  This was an opportunity to write for the pure joy of writing.

Write what you know.  Seems like the golden rule of writing.  Well, I know cereal.  So thank you for joining me on this journey and hope that you have been entertained along the way.

Let's start with a recap of numbers 20 through 6 from my three previous blogs.

20. Cap'n Crunch

19. Cocoa Puffs

18. Kaboom

17. Crispix

16.  Cookie Crisp

15. Honey Nut Cheerios

14. Zucaritas

13. Cinnamon Toast Crunch

12. Coco Wheats

11.  Sugar Crisp

10. Lucky Charms

9. Banana Bugs 'n' Mud

8. Honey Comb

7. Teddy Grahams

6.  Marshmallow Krispies cereal

And now, the top 5.  Thank you for reading along.

5.  S'mores Crunch

By now you have likely realized that many of my favorite cereals were produced during my peak cereal eating years of 1980 to 1984.  S'mores Crunch made a debut in my cereal bowl in 1982 which was during the same time I was watching Super Friends, Shirt Tales and the Richie Rich Show on Saturday morning cartoons.  It basically was Golden Grahams on steroids, as General Mills flavored the graham cracker pieces with chocolate and added tiny marshmallows.  Until creating this list, I never knew that I had such a passion for tiny marshmallows in cereal but apparently it is a real thing.  Like so many other cereals, S'mores Crunch was retired too soon, as production was stopped in 1988.  But maybe this is actually for the best?  Just like going back to watch a movie from the 80's that I thought was so good (then) and turns out to be not good today, S'mores Crunch may be better left in the 1980's. 

4.  Apple Jacks

Not many fruit flavored cereals survived the rigorous process I went through to create this list.  Is it possible that my strong diastase for Fruit Loops has clouded my judgement for other fruity cereals?  Apple Jacks makes a strong entry on the list at number four.  Originally just orange colored loops, it was not until the late 90's that the green circles were added to provide diversity.  Apple Jacks is the perfect balance of crunchiness, robust flavor and nutritional goodness.  But it truly reigns supreme as one of the best cereals to provide drinkable milk at the bottom of the bowl, along with Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. 

3. Grape Nuts

My number three entry likely does not appear on any other top cereal list other than a list where people confuse dog food for cereal.  Grape Nuts can literally taste like gravel if eaten straight out of the box.  But when combined with two scoops of sugar and skim milk, this concrete cousin transforms into gritty goodness.  Before this metamorphosis, it is clearly the healthiest cereal to make the list.  The third and final entry for Post, Grape Nuts has tremendous scoop-ability for getting the most amount of cereal onto a single spoon.  And if you want a totally mind blowing experience, try substituting microwaved evaporated milk (for cold skim milk) and you may just replace filet mignon as your last meal on earth.

2. Golden Grahams

I have previously admitted that some cereals may have been ranked higher than normal due to pure sentimental value.  When I think about my dad eating cereal, I think of him eating a bowl of Golden Grahams.  But unlike my approach of simply adding milk, my dad goes about this a little differently.  In fact, in his bowl of Golden Grahams, there are very little Golden Grahams.  He adds granola, fresh fruit from the garden, nuts and an occasional raisin which in other cases may be a grounds for disownment, but that is another list.  He also prefers warm(er) milk and if my mom will allow it, he would want it to be whole milk.  I have to eat mine in ice cold skim milk and have been known to actually add ice cubes.  A box of Golden Grahams will last my dad for a month, whereas it may not make it to the end of grocery day for me.  But regardless of our methods, it is something that we share as father and son.  This honey and brown sugar flavored cereal narrowly missed top billing.

1. Ice Cream Cones

I believe that 1987 was the greatest year of all time.  I was 12 years old.  Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard was on the radio.  I was an all star first baseman for the First National Bank little league team at Lodal Field.  I was dating the older sister of a team mate.  We went to school camp and my friend Ryan Milkey made me much cooler than I actually was.  I had my first Mark McGwire rookie card and life was good.  I was in the advanced math and reading classes at Garden Village School and life could not be better.

In that same year, General Mills introduced Ice Cream Cones cereal.  It was a combination of sweetened puffs with sugar cone-shaped pieces sweetened with waffle cone flavor.  Do I really need to say anything else?  Our local grocery store in Kingsford, Michigan only carried the vanilla flavor, while the big cities were treated to chocolate and chocolate chip varieties.  Before adding milk, you could make tiny ice cream cone replicas by carefully balancing the ice cream puffs atop the waffle cones.  Though I will never mention it under oath in a court of law, this cereal was actually two sugary to be eaten right out of the box.  But the milk would actually cut though the sweetness and produce an amazing result.  An occasional cone might pierce the roof of your mouth, but it was worth the risk.

Peddling on a bicycled shaped ice cream cart, Ice Cream Jones battled life threatening conditions like man eating cartoon bears and falling trees in the woods to deliver Ice Cream Cones to kids.  He also manged to sing a catchy jingle where he chimed "No storm keeps Ice Cream Jones from bringing you, your Ice Cream Cones."

What is beyond comprehension is the fact that this cereal was discontinued in the same year in which it made its debut.  General Mills did bring this cereal back in 2003 for the 100th anniversary of the ice cream cone, but I refused to bite on this gimmick.  For me, Ice Cream Cones cereal is what 1987 was all about.  Eating something that made you feel good without worry.

If there was a Mount Rushmore of cereals, Ice Cream Cones would be the Abraham Lincoln, cut down before their prime.

Until next time my cereal eating friends...