What is breakfast cereal? No, I'm asking you, you tell me. What's the first thing you think of when I ask you that question, the first mental image that comes up? For me, it's bowl of multicolored puffy sweet things, or a pile of mealy brown flakes, maybe with some crusty sugary raisins dotting the bowl...
But what IS it, really? Cereal is one of those things that we don't even think about, like air or water -- it's cereal. It's what you eat for breakfast. We don't even question its existence; it's just there. When I used to teach at a culinary school, and we had breakfast cooking days, I'd pose that question. Generally I got answers like, it's wheat, or maybe corn, or grains? But none of them could tell me what was done to the grains, or how much of the grains' actual nutrition had been blasted out in the manufacturing process, or how much sugar and other garbage was added back into the cereal. Or just WHY it exists and why we accept it as gospel that we should be eating it every day? And that's because we just ACCEPT it. The same way we just accept things like terrible tasteless strawberries and Fox News and a Senate that thinks anyone can own a gun regardless of their background. We just roll over, eat our big bowls of processed sh*t, and take it.
And yeah, technically, that is what cereal is. Grains. Or actually that's what grains are, cereals. Named for Ceres, the Roman goddess of grain and the harvest. If she only knew what we'd done to her namesake food, and to her name itself, she'd probably send a plague of locusts and disease and wipe out all the grain from the earth forever. But since companies like Monsanto have developed chemical pesticides that are plague-resistant (for now), and chemical fertilizers that allow us to grow more grain then at any time ever in the history of agriculture, and we can use more water and more petroleum than ever to grow that grain, we've gotta do something with it all. So we feed a lot of it to livestock, who were never meant to eat it because they really prefer grass, and we turn some of it into bio-fuel, which is pretty inefficient because we need to use a whole lot of fuel just to grow the grain to make it, and the rest forms the basis of the American diet. Our diet based on corn, wheat, rice, oats and soybeans. All ground up into refined industrial dust; combined with the other major element of our diet, sugar, either from corn or cane; and turned into a hundred thousand million Foodiness products, about 700,000 of which are cereals.
Because of that abundance of grain, The Foodiness-Industrial complex has so successfully brainwashed us all into thinking that cereal is food, that we've gone beyond the rabbit hole, and fallen out the other side into the giant cereal matrix. They tell us that cereal is food, the government incorporates the message into the Foodiness-nutritional guidelines that we all grew up swallowing by the cereal-bowlful, and all that excess grain conveniently gets used up. Neat.
So we were all raised to believe that cereal is food. But it's not -- cereal is actually Foodiness, know why? Cereal actually may be the quintessential Foodiness product because we were told to believe it in it. We had to be brainwashed, like toddlers or cult members, to think of a box of processed, sweetened grains as the standard of breakfast food. Whether you ate Crunch Berries or bran flakes, we never questioned whether it was real food. But it's not, it is unquestioned, unchallenged Foodiness. So where does it all come from, a big factory or something? Oh no, silly rabbit, somewhere out in the vast Midwest! Where the farms are so big you can't see where they begin or end, (because it's really just one huge farm from Pennsylvania to California), and each farm is a different cereal field, where a different cereal grows. Yeah, you didn't know that? Different cereals need different climates, so each one has its own special farm. There's one giant cereal field in Iowa that solely grows Corn Flakes, of course, and one in California that grows Raisin Bran. The bran and the raisins grow right there together in the warm California sunshine! The Sun-Maid raisin girl runs that farm. She's Cesar Chavez's grandniece. But she's a modern Big-Ag kind of girl. She keeps those migrant farm workers in order -- that girl has an iron fist.
And certain cereals grow better in certain climates, of course, Count Chocula, being of Eastern European descent, grows better in climates like Eastern Europe's, so they usually grow that in chilly, grey places like Montana or North Dakota. Whereas Lucky Charms is an Irish delicacy, and needs the rolling green hills of western Pennsylvania, which looks and feels a lot like Ireland, all grass and sheep and married cousins and all. But a more tropical variety of cereal, like Froot Loops, really requires the warm, humid breezes and moist climate of the southern states. I've read that there are a lot of new Froot Loop farms being started on old tobacco plantations in the south. Good thing, too. It's nice that they've put all that land to good use, growing something much better for us, and much more healthy than tobacco. Or medical marijuana.
It's great that we have so much biodiversity here in the U.S. where it comes to breakfast crops. We live in a lucky, lucky time, with so many great choices.
If you were born in the U.S. after 1950, you were born into the cereal matrix. You can't escape it. Cereal, truly, is the devil's work. What once was just a benign bowl of processed grain and sugar with artificial colors, flavor and preservatives, and a handful of synthetic vitamins and minerals thrown in, has evolved further, into a Foodiness version of its Foodiness self. If cereal was the original Foodiness product, then it's gone even deeper into the matrix and way, way further down the rabbit hole, because now there are Foodiness versions of Foodiness cereals.
Take Special K, which was originally marketed as a diet cereal, because it was puffed up so full of air that it had very few calories. I remember, in my fat childhood, eating Special K for breakfast and being so hungry about an hour later that I'd make myself a sandwich -- so much for that diet plan. So Special K went from being a Foodiness cereal, portraying itself as a healthy, low-calorie, grain- and nutrition-filled food, (which it never was, it was just refined grain flour, sugar and air) to becoming a whole separate brand, of all kinds of Foodiness products, like Special K bars, and Special K water and Special K crackers, and at the airport recently I saw Special K snack chips -- wtf, people? What does that even mean? If Special K cereal is already not a real food, but a processed Foodiness product, soylent-green-like, then what is Special K water? Or crackers? Is it made from the cereal? Or maybe it's made from the empty boxes? How do they turn the cereal into bottled water? It's the special K matrix, it sucks in the gullible dieting masses, who just see the pretty red letter K, and think, Special K, Special K, will make me thin... I buy, not think, just buy, eat, buy, repeat.
And what about cereal bars? Especially those "milk" and cereal bars, you know, there's no actual milk in them, right? There's corn syrup solids and whey powder and titanium dioxide, but it's not like they magically figured out how to make milk stand still in a solid layer, suspended magically between two layers of cereal-flavored cookies. And that's what they are, cookies, or candy bars, really.
It's Foodiness that tastes like cereal that tastes like candy that is now in bar form with a few token whole grains and added calcium and fiber and then turned back into a cereal form that tastes like the candy bar version of the cereal. Talk about the rabbit hole. Did you get that? Do you want to?
I don't. That's why I quit cereal years ago. I eat oatmeal now, slow cooked only. No pre-digested instant oatmeal for me. Or most days, I eat quinoa, it makes a great hot breakfast cereal. Pricier, yes, but think of the money I'll save years from now on insulin and amputee supplies. So if you don't want to eat cereal sh*t... just don't. But do keep listening to Let's Get Real, on Heritage Radio Network.
Follow Erica Wides on Twitter: www.twitter.com/letsgetrealshow