Sunday, May 27, 2007

Fruity Cheerios: Cheeri-eww

I went to the grocery store yesterday in search of staples that would sustain me through a long period of intensive, in-apartment work, restocking the kitchen with the knowledge that not only would I not be leaving town on a weekly basis anymore, but that I'd also be chained to my desk for much of the coming weeks. On my list? Cereal.

Certain cereals have been problematic for me in the past, so I went with an open mind, the nonspecific "cereal" scribbled on my list. I wanted to avoid something like the delicious, environmentally responsible varieties of Barbara's Puffins, which, too easily assimilated into the realm of finger food, tend to spell disaster for me; I also wanted to stay out of the Lucky Charms trap. Last summer, at age 23, I developed a fiendish addiction to them - an affliction I blame entirely on the "free song on iTunes!" promotion splashed across the front of the box, which, to be frank, is already enticing enough for me.

What I was looking for was a happy medium, which led me to Fruity Cheerios. The latest in an ever-expanding line of Cheerios cereals, this is to General Mills what the "Pink" line of lingerie is to Victoria's Secret - an early builder of brand allegiance. Once consumers graduate from the bright colors and fun patterns, they'll trust the name they grew up with. Alternatively viewed, it's the health-minded parent's answer to the would-you-like-some-cereal-with-your-sugar confections their children pitch fits over in the aisle. The box even imitates that of its model cereal, Froot Loops, with brightly colored Os zestfully splashing into a spoonful of milk on a vibrant red background. With whole grains, real fruit juice, less sugar, and dietary fiber to boot, Fruity Cheerios promised a responsible balance of fortification and breakfast-time fun. (But be warned: the back-of-the-box games are lame: "Which Fruity Cheerios® flower has a bigger yellow center?" Please.)

Inside the box, though, I found nothing but disappointment. True, these Cheerios were less finger-foody than Puffins or even any other Cheerio on the market - but that was mostly on account of the cereal's glaze, a hard, clear shellac that is entirely to the detriment of the cereal. (Well, maybe not entirely - I think it's responsible for the lack of the weird sugary film that other fruity cereals like Fruity Pebbles leave on the roof of your mouth.) Cosmetically, the glaze made the cereal look plastic. Combined with the irregularly sized, anemic Os (ironic, given that one serving provides 25% of your daily iron needs!), it makes for a pretty sad picture in the bowl. Handling the cereal sans spoon was an unpleasantly sticky endeavor, as well (all the better to keep me from snacking, but unfortunate all the same). Finally, because of their crystalline crust, Fruity Cheerios lack the hearty, whole-grain mouthfeel of any of its Cheerio kin and lack any semblance of flavor; not only do they look plasticky, they sort of taste it, too. Blech.

After sampling from the box to these disappointments, I had hoped that the cereal might fare better with milk. This was not to be, however, as my milk (whose expiration date is tomorrow, by the way) had gone bad. That question will have to be answered another day. In the meantime, I'd recommend that you go buy yourself a box of Froot Loops. Toucan Sam takes the day, any day.

(image courtesy of cheerios.com)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Premiere!

This week I drove to New York for what was probably my penultimate NYC-bound roadtrip to do some work on my capstone/thesis project. The main event was the world premiere performance of the complete (In)Habitation: Musical Settings of Margaret Atwood Poetry on Thursday night, a project conceived, commissioned and performed by the fabulous and lovely soprano Eileen Strempel (below, right) and pianist Sylvie Beaudette.

Me & Eileen

Four of the six commissioned composers were there for the performance at St. Bartholomew's (at 51st and Park Ave), which attracted a decent crowd even without the clutch of SU trustee-types sitting in the chapel's front pews.

I had a chance to meet up with composer Lori Laitman and song expert Dr. Carol Kimball the next morning and interview them about their involvement in the project for my capstone story. I'm pretty far along in the reporting and info-gathering stages, but after this weekend, the capstone work begins in earnest - especially now that I'm parked back in Syracuse with no further rehearsals or concerts to observe or attend.

If you're interested in Margaret Atwood, check out her poetry if you've not before - it's pretty interesting (even for the Atwood-uninitiated, like me). And be sure to keep your eyes out for a recording of this Atwood-in-song project, because they'll be recording it this summer.