Archived Story

The breakfast of regular people

Published 9:12am Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Column: Tales from Exit 22

Food can be treacherous.

I recall sitting with a friend in South Texas. We were in a restaurant where food was measured in buckets. He was telling me about his knee replacement. I don’t remember if it was his clutch or his gas knee, but he bemoaned the fact that a new knee doesn’t come with a zerk, a fitting that would allow his knee to be greased regularly.

We ordered. The waiter assured me that my order was a mild one. The meal came with plenty of crackers. I hoped the crackers wouldn’t dominate. I took one bite and my car alarm went off. I could have heated my house with my breath.

Generally, breakfast is the safest of our meals. It features benign foods like oatmeal. It’s true that squirting grapefruit can be dangerous to eyes, but breakfast is a gentle repast and proclaimed as the most important meal of the day.

I’ve been advised that I should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. Few people do that. Some folks eat brunch. Brunch is when you order a meal at breakfast and it doesn’t arrive until lunch. I feel guilty not mentioning supper, as I’ve yet to see a painting of The Last Dinner.

Wheaties was created in 1922 as a result of an accidental spill of a wheat bran mixture onto a hot stove by an employee of the Washburn Crosby Co., which later became General Mills.

The company held a contest to name the cereal, and it wasn’t long before the jingle, “Have you tried Wheaties? They’re whole wheat with all of the bran. Won’t you try Wheaties? For wheat is the best food of man,” was heard on WCCO Radio, also owned by the Washburn Crosby Co. (Note the call letters.)

Wheaties maintained brand recognition through its association with sports and its distinctive orange boxes. It became so popular that in the 1939 All-Star Baseball game, 46 of the 51 players endorsed the cereal. Babe Ruth plugged them, as did Frank Sinatra, The Lone Ranger, Wyatt Earp and Mickey Mantle. In 1987, the Minnesota Twins team was featured on a box of Wheaties.

Before school, when I could almost hear the crack of the whips wielded by my teachers, I hunkered down for a bowl of Wheaties. I had goals. I had ambition. I wanted to eat breakfast.

“Before I used my head and feeties. I got the eaties for my Wheaties!”

Mother sometimes bought the Kellogg’s variety pack. It was a collection of single-serve cereal boxes. Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes, Raisin Bran, Special K, Shredded Wheat, Sugar Pops and Rice Krispies.

Variety is the spice of life, but in a family that considered ketchup spicy, I didn’t require spice for breakfast. Besides, Rice Krispies could be deafening. A cereal snapping, crackling and popping threateningly in a bowl could be a crack in a day’s windshield.

Wheaties boxes featured the likenesses of famous athletes who endorsed the “Breakfast of Champions” like Tim McCarver, Raymond Berry, Bobby Richardson and Bart Starr. Bob Richards, a gold medalist in the decathlon, was a longtime spokesman for Wheaties. I knew Wheaties was good because it not only had ingredients, it had endorsements.

People like different foodstuffs for breakfast. Bacon and eggs, omelets, grits, baked beans on toast, bullheads or Swedish fish. Different tummies mean different yummies. It’s not my job to judge. Whatever feeds your needs.

I still eat cereal most mornings. Some cereals maintain a sports focus, others should be given a 10-yard penalty for unnecessary fiber. When a big day is just a hop, skip and a jump away, cereal helps. Hopping, skipping and jumping are tiring. I don’t favor cereals that change the color of the milk, but I enjoy sweetness in my breakfast food.

My lovely bride, The Queen B, claims I’m not getting enough fiber in my diet, so she’s put me on a bran diet. I’d get less fiber by eating a sofa cushion. It’s bran in the morning, bran at noon and bran at night.

My current cereal has a warning label on the box that reads, “Not to be eaten outside a bathroom.” It’s not cereal, it’s mulch. The Energizer Bunny eats it. That’s what keeps that rabbit going and going and going.

I don’t like to whine, but I’m a husband. That’s what husbands do. I moaned about my cereal tasting like its cardboard package.

My wife brushed off my complaint by saying, “Keeps you regular, doesn’t it?”

Regular? I’m a month ahead.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.