Cereal Sex Offenders

Do a lot of people eat cold cereal for breakfast? Not me. I like cereal in the evenings sometimes, but never for breakfast. 

When I was young my favourite cereals were Post Alphabits or Sugar Crisp. I liked to let them sit and soak in the milk until all the sugar drained off into the bottom of the bowl. Then I’d eat the cereal and dump the milk.

Eventually I discovered Cheerios.   I could let them soak and not only did they not get soggy (just soft and chewy), but the milk didn’t get all sweet and nasty either. I always keep a box of Cheerios in the  cupboard these days. Did you know that Cheerios is the world’s best selling cereal?

Cheerios was invented by General Mills’ Director of Research, Lester Borchardt, back in 1941 and was the first ready-to-eat oat cereal. Lester worked at General Mills for 35 years. After he invented Cheerios, he ate them every day of his life and lived to be 99 years old! Lester was also the guy who invented a way to fortify milk with Vitamin D. 

Hi Lester. Thanks for doing all that stuff.

If Lester (or General Mills) had had god on their side, however, they would have probably invented Cheerios a  lot sooner. Why?

Well, Kellogg’s — which was founded by Seventh Day Adventists — had been producing Corn Flakes since 1906 and Rice Crispies since 1929. It all started in a little hospital called The Battle Creek Sanitarium.  Part of looking after sick people there was coming up with nutritious, but suitably boring, things for them to eat. Why boring?

Well, because the 7DAs believed that sweet, spicy or otherwise flavourful foods made people too passionate. And, that passions lead  to unhealthy carnal urges. 7DAs are steadfastly opposed  to carnal urges of any sort.

So, the hospital’s superintendent, William Kellogg, spent a lot of time creating ever blander foods for the patients and other 7DAs to eat.

One day while Kellogg was  trying to invent a new blandest-ever-bread substitute (I guess even regular bland bread was too provocative) he boiled some wheat — because we all know nothing makes stuff  bland faster than boiling it.  The boiled wheat must have been really boring, since Kellogg fell asleep after cooking it and ended up accidentally leaving the pot of boiled wheat to stand for hours, or maybe days, until it got really soggy.

Of course he didn’t want to just throw out valuable boiled wheat (don’t the words “boiled wheat” just make your mouth water?). So, Kellogg messed around with it a bit – rolling it out like dough and then letting it dry thinking maybe he could bake it after. BUT, the stuff suddenly got so dry that it got flaky and crunchy.  At this point he just decided to give up the experiment and feed it to his patients before it grew mould. 

To everyone’s surprise, the patients seemed to be able to keep the stuff down AND it caused them to become really listless, so Kellogg figured he might be on to something. So then he tried the same thing with corn and those flakes really had a soporific effect on everybody. And lo, Corn Flakes were born.

Corn Flakes proved to posses such powerful anaphrodisiacal properties that the US Army bought them by the barrelful to feed to soldiers to suppress their sex drives. And, because the army is all about overkill, they took the magic of Corn Flakes a step further and processed them (somehow) so they could administer them as suppositories, as well. (Seriously! I swear I’m not making any of this up. Google Corn Flakes Suppositories if you don’t believe me.)

So anyway, time passes and then, along come Cheerios — made by regular, robust sexy heathan business guys and scientists like Lester. After a couple of decades of bland corn and rice cereals, Cheerios probably made everyone who ate them extra-sexy. (Nobody of Lester’s generation ever needed Viagra, did they?)

In fact, I think General Mills deliberately set out to make sexy cereal as a slap in the face to the 7DAs. Why else would they have made Cheerios in those voluptuous boobie shapes? And then there’s that “Cheer”  thing in their name  — what’s that if not direct opposition to the somber properties of the cereals that went before them?

Check out the slogans used to sell Cheeri Oats (as they were originally called) and tell me I’m not right: 

  • The Breakfast Food You’ve Always Wanted (1941)
  • Cheer up with Cheerioats (1942)
  • Cheerioats: For Fighters on the Homefront (1943)
  • Cheerioats: The New Flavour King of Cereals (1944)
  • Look! An Oat Cereal All Ready to Eat (1945)

And, in an even more radical move, General Mills used a GIRL — “Cheeri O’Leary” as their mascot. How out-of-the-cereal-box was that?   Nobody had ever used a girl cereal mascot before, nevermind one whose name conjures up images of drunken Irish lasses. Actually, can you think of any other female cereal mascots since then? Ever? I can’t.

Meanwhile, around 1945, another religious organization – The Quakers, got all passively ticked-off because of the “Oats” in Cheerioats name and went to court to get them to stop using it. Nobody’s ever been able to refuse Quakers anything, so, General Mills had to change their name to Cheerios — which, of course turned out to be much cooler anyway.

The first Cheerios slogan was:  Cheerios – the first ready-to-eat oat cereal. I think that was a real stick-it-to-the-Quakers slogan. (As in, nyah-nyah – your oat cereal involves a lot of work prior to eating and ours doesn’t!) Plus, Cheerios got even racier than Cheerioats ever was when they gave Cheeri O’Leary a boyfriend called “Joe Idea”.

Sure, Cheeri and Joe look really lame, but I wonder what sort of “ideas” Joe had? Where they sexy ideas or just natural, cereal-related ideas? Maybe he had some bad PR ideas because pretty soon both he and Cheeri got the ax and were replaced by The Cheerios Kid, who, with the help of a gun and some muscle, encouraged other kids to “Go with the Goodness of Cheerios.”

This seemed to be the start of a new era of tougher, more macho Cheerios.  General Mills even co-opted the Lone Ranger to help sell Cheerios. Back in the day, no one was more macho than the Lone Ranger.

Remember those cool toys you used to get in cereal boxes? Well, Cheerios gave away a whole range of Lone Ranger junk like silver bullets and flashlight pistols and the Lone Ranger Frontier Town. This one is selling on e-Bay for $700 RIGHT NOW!

Once  Cheerios got tired of being sexy and macho, they decided to try for “healthy”.  But then the FDA got all bent out of shape about that, so they had to stop saying that Cheerios is healthy.

Poor old Cheerios. They just can’t get a break. (Except for that “world’s best selling cereal” thing, of course). In my opinion, one of Cheerios‘ worst enemies these days is  Cheerios themselves.

Why would they bastardize their lovely old cereal with stuff like:  Honey Nut Cheerios? Apple Cinnamon Cheerios? Multigrain Cheerios? Frosted Cheerios? Chocolate Cheerios ? Or…wait for it… Millenios for pete’s sake? And please, please tell me that Berry Burst Cheerios only exist in a nightmare I had once?

All these “new” Cheerios are loaded with sugar (yes, even Multigrain) and add absolutely nothing to the original wonderfulness of Cheerios. Cheerios don’t lend themselves well to adornment. Cheerios are probably the only cereal that just don’t work with fruit. Corn Flakes? Load on the bananas, strawberries or blueberries if you ever hope to have sex again. Rice Crispies? Please. They’re nothing without fruit, chocolate and/or marshmallows. But Cheerios are best straight up.

Why won’t Cheerios leave well enough alone? Their website even features a freakshow Cheerios Recipes page with recipes for things no one in their right might would want to eat.  Would you eat a “Valentine’s Treat” made of popcorn, Cheerios, butter and red cinnamon hearts melted together and shaped into red blobs? Isn’t this just perverting the essential sexiness of the Cheerios gestalt?