Breakfast cereal is easy to understand, and perhaps its simplicity is the reason why people want to play with the formula.  One opens a box, pours it in a bowl, covers it with milk, and voila.  It is beloved for the nostalgic element: the Saturday morning in front of the television, the day home from school faking sick, the toys inside, the free boxes with the proof of purchase.  Trix, Lucky Charms, Cap’n Crunch (O! Captain!).  Because cereal touches our deepest emotions, some wish to innovate by giving different interpretations of the classics.  But, here are five things that we should avoid doing with cereal.

5) Do not make sushi with cereal.

“Here, kids- I wanted your first time having real sushi to be disappointing!”

I went to a sushi buffet in South Korea once in which something called “breakfast sushi” was served.  It was, sure enough, something like a sliced California roll with a Fruit Loop on top of each piece.  I didn’t have one, but a friend of mine did and although he didn’t say anything about it, I don’t think he liked it much.  Apparently, there is a “creative moms” kind of trend of making rice crispie treats and other things to look like sushi.  I’m not dead opposed to the idea, and it does look inventive, but personally, I don’t want to be eating something I’m expecting to be a bit bitter, like fish, and have it end up being a marshmallow.

4) Do not use cereal as an ingredient.

Cereal is the finished product.  We can add milk or marshmallows, but the final word is cereal.  But I’ve seen some recipes calling cereal as an ingredient, in little crumbles or in a glaze.  Some even use it on chicken.  I’m open to experimentation when it comes to food, but using something like cereal in this way is a little bit like a recipe that says, “Step One: Add an entire chocolate cake.”  Breakfast cereal has no place in cooking, and although you can sometimes use it inventively in baking, your best bet is usually to crush up some Chex mix and sugar and peanut butter or something, and make some breakfast cereal stock of your own.

3) Do not humor cereal companies that want to branch out into other products.

Some name brands- Trix, Golden Grahams, and Cap’n Crunch, to name a few- have branched out into other products.  I see them try to inch into Nutragrain’s territory by creating these little cereal bars with false milk on them.   At Halloween a couple of years ago, I saw little bags of Lucky Charms and Trix marketed as door-to-door candy.   Citizens say Enough!  Cereals, you have corned the market on cereal.  Do not worry overmuch that we aren’t buying enough Frosted Flakes.  I promise you that we are buying the right amount.  We do not need our cereal reshaped and resold!  Plus, where in a candy-bar can you hide a toy?

Despite a shaky business model, Cereality proves itself to have a strangely fitting name.

2) Do not open a cereal-themed restaurant.

Cereal has long been an eat-fast staple, but cereal-themed restaurants don’t seem to work.  There used to be one in Richmond’s VCU area, meant to cater to college students, but it failed.  Few people, it seemed, wanted to pay has much for a bowl of cereal as they could for a box of the stuff at the grocery store.   Still fewer more wanted to have to wear clothes other than that which they slept in to eat a bowl of cereal in the morning.  But Cereality, a franchise boasting four locations, has a new take on cereal:  “It’s a life-long staple, and yet nobody had ever figured out a way to make it work in fast food, until now.  All around them, people seemed obsessed with satisfying their cravings well beyond their kitchen tables, no matter how inconvenient…”  They go on to list such types as, “The buttoned-up executive on Wall Street who regularly sneaks Cocoa Puffs behind his desk at three in the afternoon.”  Well, yes, you will certainly attract specialty crowds if you open up such a cafe.  But should you start selling something just because you think that a percentage of the work-force is secretly addicted to it?  No, probably not.

1) Do not have a cereal-themed wedding.

“And it cost us only sixty dollars, after we mailed in the proofs of purchase!”

Weddings, I imagine, are stressful, so I can understand why there may be attempts made to make them more lighthearted.  But apparently themed wedding buffets are a big thing now.  One of the most striking arrangements I’ve seen photographed was, of course, the cereal buffet.  “Great for kids,” says the caption, “Adds pops of color.”  Well, they do add pops of color, and the children will like it for a while, but when the dancing starts, and all that sugar…Well, I wouldn’t want to be the janitor.  Cereal at a reception is a youthful idea, and I like that aspect of it, but one should always consider: Give a crowd some cereal, and you get a chuckle.  Give them a leg of lamb, and they weep tears of joy.

Cereal will probably be around a long time.  But, as with all things, if we abuse it, we may lose it.  If we cast breakfast cereal forever into the realm of kitsch, it may not occur to us seriously to eat it.  And all because we did things with it that we shouldn’t have done.

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