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)