many children, breakfast in the morning is filled with anticipation,
particularly if it included cereal, and even more if they were the
lucky child to find the surprise inside. If you had brothers and
sisters, chances are that only one of you would actually play with
the surprise; it was nearly unheard of in our house unless you stayed
over at a friend's or relative's house. My mother also made it a
rule that most sugar-coated cereals were not purchased; sugar was
bad for our teeth and also revved us up like high-octane fuel. Yet
we all managed to find surprises in our breakfast bowls nonetheless.
it be said beforehand that my mother is the best cook I have ever
known and that most mornings we got a hot breakfast along with a
bagged lunch if we weren't coming home in the daytime. These were
also more than just ordinary oatmeal, too: pancakes, eggs, waffles
and toast. Sometimes we just wanted cereal, but the hot option was
chosen cereal, we then picked which kind to have. There were even
more to choose from, but the main staples were always Raisin Bran,
Life, Cheerios, Golden Grahams and Rice Krispies. Now and then Captain
Crunch might breach the shopping cart, but mostly it was those cereals.
My parents also had their favorites, like Bran Flakes, Special K
or the ever appetizing Bran Buds, which perplexed us because it
didn't even look appetizing. The makers of Bran Buds somehow stopped
in the middle of creating their cereal, neglecting an important
step which is to make your cereal look like it was edible. They
seemed to begin with natural ingredients, mix them and then stop
halfway. The end result looked like you could grow things in it
or from it, if conditions were right. We almost always picked one
of the other kid friendly cereals and were relatively happy with
is where we encountered our first surprise of the day. As we poured
the cereal into the bowl, even if the picture on the front claimed
Golden Grahams, you might get an entirely different cereal. Perhaps
even several. Breakfast became an adventure as we tried to peer
into the bowl like prospectors sifting in a stream. Sometimes we
had four or five cereal and grain companies represented in our bowl.
mother, you see, to conserve prescious pantry space mixed the cereals
all into one box. It didn't matter if one was cornflakes and one
was bran; if they were more than halfway finished, they were tossed
in with the rest and the box was disposed of. Your time in the pantry
is done! Sorry, it's a popular place! My mother was so efficient,
that sometimes she could cram a whole cereal aisle into one convenient
the dismay we expressed in getting Bran Buds with our Cheerios was
enough to stun us for the next surprise. An expert at distraction,
our mother would now hover around us with a knife and a piece of
fruit and ask us if we wanted any in our cereal. Since this might
be the only time of day we encountered anything healthy, it was
a good plan. In fact, we were so tired that she could slip in pieces
of our shoes and we would eat them. Having asked the question, she
usually started slicing the fruit into our breakfast without waiting
for us to reply. In fact, this is how she responded to all questions
about food. If my mom asks if a guest wants anything and they say
"No", she hears "No, but what else do you have?"
and she will offer food options until the guest is overwhelmed and
agrees. It's surprising the number of options that she can come
up with if pressed.
she slices the fruit into our bowls. Most people probably assume
bananas and this is always true, but my mom would cut up peaches,
pears, apples, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and
even kiwis. Many times, this fruit had been passed over for a while,
so it would have large wedges hacked off as if it had barely survived
a machete attack. The bananas would attain a softness that made
them almost fuzzy on the edges, as if out of focus. My Mom also
would almost hurriedly slide these off so you'd have large chunks
of fruit landing in milk from great distances. It was like being
under attack as your cereal exploded, throwing flakes and Bran Buds
everywhere, spraying milk around. "Hey!" we'd yell, not
just at the splashing, but at the alien presence of fruit. "Hey!
I didn't want any of that in my cereal! What is that bran in there?!
we ate it anyway, because walking out hungry was not the way to
start your day. Mom mom also inadvertently prepared us for later
years of California mix and other combinations. We were probably
healthier for it, too. I don't know how much bran I unknowingly
ate as a child, but we did go through many boxes of Bran Buds! Not
to mention toilet paper!
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