I don’t consider myself a leather-jacketed rebel. I suppose I once had my leather-jacketed rebel side (I also owned several leather jackets), but I have now reached an age at which reason doesn’t necessarily equate with boring. That’s not to say I don’t occasionally live dangerously. Indeed, there is one wildly dangerous activity in which I regularly and recklessly engage.
I mix cereals.
Cold breakfast cereal is an American invention, created by men who thought that a breakfast of grain wetted down with milk would make a healthful alternative to the traditional hearty American morning meal. John Harvey Kellogg’s Cornflakes were intended to calm the passions and be part of a diet that shunned meat, coffee and tobacco. A stay in Kellogg’s Western Health Reform Institute must have been gastronomically boring in the extreme.
Fast-forward some 130 years to a time in which entire aisles of American supermarkets are devoted to the vast range of cereals we devour. Although cereal has penetrated most Western countries as a breakfast alternative, cold breakfast cereal is a part of the American way of life. And not only for breakfast: we eat cereal anytime from first thing in the morning to the middle of the night.
Within this cereal culture of ours, one thing that simply isn’t done is mixing them. I can see why it might not occur to people – the convenience of cereal is that you can get a meal out of one box – but why not? True, individual cereals’ flavors are carefully balanced by their creators, but, in the days of the McGangBang (the colloquial term for the combining of a McChicken sandwich and a McDouble hamburger), why not add Cap’n Crunch to your cornflakes?
Consider the case of raisin bran. High in fiber, fortified with a smattering of vitamins, pleasantly fruity…and, ultimately, boring, especially as bran flakes positively wilt in milk. They’re not even crunchy out of the box. Incipit Kellogg’s Crunchy Raisin Bran, a combination of bran flakes, raisins and granola-like nuggets.
Crunchy Raisin Bran opens the door to a universe of combined cereals, but I know people who eat it yet balk at the idea of adding their own granola to their raisin bran. There is a definite societal taboo about mixing cereals out of two boxes.
Yet you can cross the new frontier explored by Crunchy Raisin Bran without transgressing any of the Biblical prohibitions on forbidden mixtures. I’ve experimented successfully with adding Cinnamon Toast Crunch to raisin bran. The cinnamon compliments the raisins, wakes up the bland flakes…and the crunch adds texture to a cereal that otherwise tends to the soggy. If you want to do the breakfast equivalent of riding your rebel motorcycle without a helmet, try sprinkling some Life on top of our Cinnamon Raisin Toast Bran Crunch.
If Wikipedia is to be believed, there were 4945 different cereals on the market in 2012. That means that, if you mix two cereals, you’ll have 12,224,040 different combinations at your culinary disposal. While some of those combinations (Cocoa Puffs and Froot Loops, for example) can be eliminated a priori, that still leaves room for more than one unique combination of cereal for each person on the planet.
Far from setting off a nuclear chain reaction, combining cereals can be a way of expressing your own uniqueness. Your personal cereal combination could become almost a second set of fingerprints. It could be a way of using a quintessentially American food to express that most quintessentially American of values, individualism.