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?

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22 responses to “Cereal Sex Offenders

  1. I was an Alphabits girl, my brother was a Cheerios boy. We both adored Captain Crunch – whenever our mom would buy it. As an adult, I quite like Cheerios for breakfast, with warm milk in the winter and cold milk in the summer. I also like them for snacks any time, with or without milk. (And I haven’t eaten Alphabits or Captain Crunch for probably 30 years. Wonder if they’ve changed at all … )

  2. Great history! I like a handful of dry oaty (oatey?) granola now and then but gave up cereal in milk along with candy bars, ice cream and pot when I was around 19. I guess I was just tired of those things.

  3. Wow, Ms. Researcher, you. You should write histories all the time. You kept my attention all the way through, and that’s saying something. Heck, I was even gonna suggest that Cheerios put that up on their website. Until I got to that last little diatribe, that is…lol.

    I’m not a Cheerios girl myself, but my dog sure loves ’em. I use them for training and just for getting him to run around the house, chasing after them, to tire him out.

  4. I can just see Tony the Tiger extolling the virties of Corn Flakes Suppositories … “They’re Grrrrreat!”

    Like they say down in Arkansas, “Yew jus’ cain’t make this sh*t up!”

    As for Cheeri O’Leary, I am fairly certain I once dated a girl with that nickname. I had no idea about the cereal connection. I just presumed it was because she was so friendly.

  5. Pinklea – I couldn’t stand the Captain. There was something really vile about that cereal to me. Almost as vile as “warm milk” – even just thinking, hearing, reading or writing the words make me feel a little nauseated.

    Geewits – I’m not a big supper fan, so a bowl of Cheerios is sometimes just the thing in the evening. I did give up candy, ice cream and pot though a long time ago.

    Skye – I was wondering if anyone was going to get through the whole thing. It did end up kind of long – but that’s why I put it up on Friday, so there’s the whole weekend to read it!!

    Daniel – And, was she Cheeri?

  6. Harrumph!
    Back where I come from, we threw Cheerios-eaters off the Seguin Street bridge along with Hab fans and opera singers!
    Captain Crunch ruled the rost! And rightfully so!

  7. Of course I read it to the end. I was on the edge of my seat while munching on a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats (with almonds) as I read. I know, could life get any sweeter?
    Truly, I can’t think of anything less sexy than cereal, have always much preferred granola.
    I never knew where Cheeri O’Leary came from. Guess I always assumed she was a lusty, drunk from life, Irish lass.

  8. When I was younger it was either Lucky Charms or Coco Puffs. My dad loved Grape Nuts which I always thought was like eating a bowl of gravel. I’m not usually one to eat breakfast at all – but I’m trying to cultivate that habit here in 2010. Mostly, though, I like a good sandwich for breakfast. Something like salami and cheese on french bread. Not a breakfast sandwich, mind you, but a good old fashioned sandwich – the kind most people would eat for lunch. Mmm.

  9. Our wholesome parents never let us have sugar cereal. We had Rice Krispies, Cornflakes, and Cheerios in the cupboard. And Shredded Wheat but only my dad would eat that. After some genius invented Kix we had that too, and it was sweet compared to the others!

    It was a special treat to stay at Grandma’s house because she had Frosted Flakes in the pantry!

    In college I took a bag of Cap’n Crunch to class, but now I keep a good ol’ bag of Cheerios in my desk at work. It’s good for snacking. Rice Krispies are too small to eat with your hands!

  10. “Corn Flakes Suppositories “.. ack!

    i have always been (still am) a Special K girl and even when i was young wasnt much for the sugar cereals.

    but not for breakfast.. bleck. i like it before bed

  11. Trashy – Blech! There was always something slimy and perfumey about the Captain. You bridge tossers are welcome to him!

    Woodsy – Absolutely! Cool, eh?

    Violetsky – Are those the ones in the commercial where the guy pretends they’re really awful so no one will eat them? I love those commercials…oh no..that was Oatmeal Crisp I think? Is that a cereal? I only remember it because in one commercial he pasted a “G” in front of the name to make it Goatmeal Crisp. That was hilarious. (Small things amuse me sometimes)

    Linsey – The so-called “marshmallows” in Lucky Charms freaked me out because they were never soft and marshmallowy. And Grape Nuts were horrible. I didn’t know anyone except that Grape Nut guy (Euell Gibbons) actually ate them. Are you old enough to remember all the Euell Gibbons spoofs and jokes that went around? Ah…good times.

    Amy – Good for your parents. Mostly we had oatmeal at home, but the ‘rents did spring for this sugary stuff once in a while, too. I can’t think why.

    Jazz – Oh yeah –good? You’re a fan?

  12. I am a sugar addict, but the only cereals I really like are shredded wheat (non-sugar tops), Cheerios, Cornflakes and Rice Crispies .

    I think there is a sexual subliminal message in the Joe cereal box. His index finger pointing to the hole in the Cheerios…really I shouldn’t have to point out the obvious to you.

  13. I had some vintage sewing supplies packaging from my kids’ great grandmother. Couldn’t toss them. I love that old artwork. It looks so boxy and primitive and comforting.

  14. What the? I have no idea where you get your blog ideas from, but I love ’em! And I LOVE Cheerios. The plain kind. Nothing funny added like nuts, or honey, or whatever. I don’t like my milk to taste sweet. Bleh. I can eat Cheerios for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and probably have during university days! You know, to save for important things like beer.)

  15. Cap’n Crunch when served with hot milk will, given enough time, sink to the bottom of the bowl, coagulate into a large mass and then float to the top. It is especially tasty with huge scoops of Nestle’s Quik. And cinnamon.

  16. Cedar – I don’t know how I missed that, but thanks. It only strengthens my thesis on the sexiness of Cheerios. If I were you I’d stay away from those Corn Flakes and Rice Crispies.

    Amy – It’s amazing the amount of work and creativity that went into packaging back in the day – lots of stuff came in tin boxes or very solid cardboard that could be used for decades. I suppose they still put a lot of marketing effort into boxes these days, but it doesn’t seem the same, does it?

    Julie- Sometimes I get blog ideas from whatever I happen to be shoveling into my mouth at the moment!

    Lebowski – Now that’s just revolting. But the next time I see you I’m going to make this and stand by, fascinated, and watch you eat it

  17. XUP,
    Where were you when I was trying to get an education? This is great stuff.

    interestingly, when I tried to leave a comment earlier, that particular computer barred me from opening your comment section. Was it offended by “sexy cereals”?

  18. LGS – I know, eh? My calling is to educate the masses with poorly researched information. I don’t know why your computer didn’t like my blog, but I do know it’s completely blocked in China. Does that help?

  19. I love Cheerios and oatmeal.

    When I was young my mother would put butter, REAL BUTTER, in a skillet, melt it and then throw in cheerios to fry them. It is actually good and I still do it once in a while, but don’t tell my cardiologist.

  20. Sheryl – Where have you been? I’ve been a tad concerned. So was this Cheerio thing a snack you just ate dry and buttery or did you dump milk on them afterwards, too?