My relatives on my mother’s side were Quakers. Hence, as a child, when cereal was purchased for our house, it didn’t surprise me that it was mostly cereal with a picture of a guy in a big black hat and the products were from the Quaker brand. So, we ate a lot of Quaker puffed wheat and puffed rice.
If you’ve ever eaten a rice cake, just imagine each of those pieces of puffed up rice in a bowl of whole milk covered with as much sugar as my mom would allow. The Quaker puffed wheat was similar except bigger and with more texture and more interesting things going on in that bowl of milk.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your taste buds, Quaker stopped puffing things in 2019. (If, by chance, you had ever wondered how it gets puffed, it’s kind of like popping popcorn.) We also had Quaker shredded wheat that felt and tasted like hard straw.
We eventually had corn flakes, but in 1952, my life changed forever when a lovable Tiger named Tony appeared. It was Tony who contributed to this major life-change in a way that I could never have understood or predicted. Kellogg came out with a corn flake that was coated in sugar, and man did that cereal taste “grrrrreat.” Trouble was, it was a little more expensive than puffed wheat, puffed rice, or shredded wheat, and my parents didn’t approve of us eating sugared cereal.
In fact, it was a source of a little tension in our house every Friday evening when we went to the A&P in Connellsville. I wanted the Frosted Flakes, but they were usually either not on the list or not in the budget. We would push the cart down the aisle past the sugared cereal and buy what we needed. At the check-out counter, mom would get a piece of blue and white stoneware that ended up being part of a collection of dishes that our daughter still has to this day.
As things progressed in cereal land, other even more sweetened breakfast foods were appearing on the shelves until it became a sugary madness. It was sugar disguised as cereal. In fact, even the cereals that were promoting good health could be as much as 50 percent sugar. Frosted Shredded Wheat, Honeycomb cereal, Honey Graham Squares, Raisin Bran, Cap’n Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Pebbles, Honey Graham Os, Cocoa Puffs, Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, and Corn Pops.
Turn the clock ahead a few decades when our first child was born. Not long after he could talk, he quickly learned about sugared cereals. As a 3-year-old, he was very insistent that sugared cereal should be a part of his life. Our conflict with him was more intense than I remembered as a kid. In fact, the sugar-challenge with our son culminated in a show-down in the local supermarket with his mother. She was wheeling him through one, and when she went down the cereal aisle, he kept grabbing boxes of sugared cereal and throwing them in the cart.
During the entire way down the aisles, she consistently picked the boxes up and put them back on the shelf. He would cry and grab another box. This routine continued down the entire aisle. He started to cry. Finally, as they reached the end of the isle, and he had unsuccessfully succeeded in keeping the sugared cereal, he stood up in the cart and screamed, “Please mommy. Please let me have cereal. And, Mommy, please, please, please, don’t beat me!”
Now let me explain that he had never been beaten, and she had no intention of ever touching him over sugared cereal. But he did leave with a box of Cocoa Puffs.
I’m not sure where things are now with sugared cereals, or how this generation is dealing with this issue, but truthfully, it’s not my circus and not my monkey.
Nick Jacobs of Windber is a Senior Partner with Senior Management Resources and author of the blog healinghospitals.com.
This article originally appeared on The Daily American: Nick Jacobs column about sugary cereal