Wednesday, August 4, 2010
by Donna Voetee
copyright, August 2010
When my children were little, grocery shopping was a group effort. Jared, with his honey-brown ringlets, Jesse with his melt-your-heart smile, Todd with his munchkin red hair, and their older sister Tricia with her witty quips and giggles. Old ladies would smile and playfully threaten to take them home with them. Some days I would have consented, but for the most part, they were delightful children, well-behaved, mannerly.
Until we got to “THAT” aisle.
You moms know which one I’m talking about. The one that turns children into 8-armed octopi with lungs that can be heard from Produce to Bread, and wills strong enough to make Iron Man athletes jealous. The one that makes them think they have just miraculously stepped into the story board of their favorite morning cartoon show. The one with the “TOYS” directly on the other side.
Yep, that’s the one. The “CEREAL” aisle.
In fairness, I knew how the kids felt. After all, I myself had heard the siren call of Flakes and Puffs, Oh’s and Krispies with my old friends Tony the Tiger, Sam the Toucan, Sonny the Cuckoo Bird, Lucky the Leprechaun, the Cap’n, and those four-fingered elves who taught us that our cereal should talk to us. "Listen to the fairy song of health, the merry chorus sung by Kellogg's Rice Krispies as they merrily Snap, Crackle, and Pop in a bowl of milk. If you've never heard food talking, now is your chance."
Hear your “food talking”? Step aside, boring, silent bacon & eggs, oatmeal and grits! The Anthropomorphic Breakfast had been created. Like a government agency, there was no turning back and it just kept growing and expanding without end. Colors foreign to the rainbow and creatures whose only existence was in the minds of ad men were now exploding on the shelves for a new generation. For young Goths, there was Boo Berry, Count Chocula, FrankenBerry, Fruit Brute, Yummy Mummy, Honey Monster, and Jarvis the Cookie Crisp Wizard. The more tender-hearted animal lovers among them were wooed by newcomers BuzzBee, Loopy Bee, Chip the Wolf, Cornelius Rooster, Dig ‘Em Frog, Coco Monkey, Crunchosaurus Rex, Linus the Lionhearted, Sugar Bear, and Alphie the Wonder Dog.
Surely the strangest—to put it mildly—of all the cereal mascots was Kellogg’s chimerical Bigg Mixx, the legendary “Chicken-wolf Moose-pig of the Yakima Valley” which had the physical features of a chicken (head and lower body), wolf (face), moose (antlers), and pig (snout). The box panel explained, "He's a proud creature. A little stupid, but definitely proud." Kellogg’s is owned by Archer Daniel Midlands. ADM is owned by Prince Charles and the House of Windsor. Is it possible to extrapolate an esoteric message to “proud, stupid” American children from our cousins across the pond? Further down the rabbit hole, is it possible that Bigg Mixx was a marketing ploy to plant seeds of acceptance to the idea of genetic engineering? Or that the double ‘xx’, which some ascribe to Nimrod and the beginnings of freemasonry, is more than coincidence?
Until 1976, there were Cocoa Freakies and Fruity Freakies, starring Hamhose, Gargle, Cowmumble, Grumble, Goody-Goody, Snorkeldorf and the leader BossMoss, a big greenie ('cereal boogers'?). In 1987, aliens Hugger, Sweetie, Tooter, and Hotdog joined BossMoss and Grumble on the shelves. Yes, that was “alien” characters added to breakfast cereal!
Their job was a singular one: to sell as many balls, bears, bites, bits, blasts, blends, blossoms, bubbles, buddies, bunches, bursts, buzzers, charms, checks, clusters, cones, crispies, crisps, critters, crumbles, crunches, delights, flakes, frosties, honeys, hoots, islands, jets, kix, kritters, loops, mixx, nuggets, nuts, oh's, orange stars, pebbles, pops, puffs, shredded, shreddies, smacks, snaps, spangles, spooners, spoonfuls, squares, stars, turtles, twinkles, waffles, zingaroos, and zings as possible to as many children as possible. FYI: I did not make these names up. They are real. Just ask your kids.
What about the nutritional value of all this cacophonous assembly of heretofore never heard of food? The USDA assures us that each serving contains “x” amount of calories, protein, carbs, and fat. The cereal is “enriched” with vitamins and minerals for much the same reason women get breast implants—to make it look good for the sale. Stating the Nutrition Facts without the ‘enhancement’ would reveal a painfully embarrassing truth: that the grain had been devitalized and robbed of its original value during processing.
The humanized hues that make those pink stars, green clovers, and yellow moons so kid-captivating are government approved under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic law, “certified” to contain no more than allowable amounts of arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and other heavy metals. What the FDA fails to mention, just one itty bitty fact, is that those numbered colors, Yellow #5, #6, Red #40, Green #3, Blue #1 and #2, are derived from crude oil. Maybe there’s some secret research that proves a child’s body runs properly on the same products that go into a car’s engine.
Between the critters on the outside and the crap on the inside of the box, children’s minds and health were betrayed. They become overactive, frustrated, aggressive. They started wetting their beds, having hives and earaches, losing muscle control. They began to struggle to remember spelling words, pay attention, do math.
With as much heart and compassion as the fictional monsters that enticed them to their baneful bowls, Big Pharma came to the rescue of exhausted and exasperated parents: Adderall, Concerta, Methylphenidate, and Strattera. Ah! So much easier than saying, “No!” in THAT aisle or getting up early to put on the home-cooked porridge.
Besides the artificial colors, artificial flavors, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, natural flavoring, refined oil, soy protein isolate, hydrogenated oil, with preservatives BHT and BHA added to both the cereal and the packaging, there is another important factor to ponder. Have you ever wondered about the process that transforms plain-grain corn, oats, wheat, rice, rye, and barley into those powerful mini-icons that children worship and are willing to sacrifice all self-respect for, to beg, plead, cry, scream, manipulate and torture their parents until the box is placed triumphantly in the shopping cart?
Extrusion. This is the technical term for “forcing a material to flow under a variety of controlled conditions along the length of a barrel and through a shaped hole or slot at a predetermined rate.” Those “controlled conditions” include high temperatures and pressure. No published studies on the effects on human health of extruded grains have been published. However, there are two unpublished works that were done on lab rats that cereal lovers should be aware of.
Paul Stitt, author of Fighting the Food Giants, described how four groups of rats were given either 1) whole wheat, water, and nutrient solution; 2) water and nutrient solution; 3) water and sugar; 4) puffed wheat, water, and nutrient solution. Whole-wheat rats lived over a year; water and vitamin rats, about two months; and the sugar rats survived one month. Listen closely: the group given all the puffed wheat, vitamins, and water to their little rat-heart’s content, died in two weeks. It was not malnutrition or starvation; something else factored in. Was it toxins that were created in the wheat by the heat at 1500 psi, turning that wheat into a poison? The cereal company who did this study did not release the results (it was found in the files by an employee), so this cannot be debated in the scientific literature.
The second study was done on corn flakes. The University of Michigan divided 18 rats into three groups: Corn flakes and water; Corn flake box and water; Rat chow and water. Rat chow rats did fine. Box rats became sick and died. Corn flake rats showed emotional stress, biting each other and throwing fits, and finally lapsing into convulsions and death—BEFORE the box rats. That’s right, the rats who ate the box lived longer than the ones who ate the corn flakes. Autopsy revealed degeneration of pancreas, liver, kidneys, and spinal nerves, all signs of insulin shock, of the corn flakes rats.
The irony of ready to eat cereal is that it all started as a food to restore the health of mental patients. Mr. Kellogg and Mr. Post would be quite shocked to see the devolution of their discoveries. Today’s selection of sugary, chemical-laden, people-kibble casts doubt on its ability to maintain life, let alone cure anyone of anything.
It’s time to literally “think outside the box.” Let’s feed our children cereal that doesn’t make them crazy. Porridges are old-fashioned cooked cereals that are nutritious and wholesome, though perhaps plain-jane compared to their boxed and beautified cousins. Moreover, there has never been a recall of porridge because the waxy liner was contaminated with the moth-ball chemical methyl naphthalene, as Kellogg had to do in June with 28 million boxes of smelly, nauseating Corn Pops, Honey Smacks, Fruit Loops and Apple Jacks that sent consumers rushing to the toilet. Surprisingly, the cereal was packaged, NOT in China, but in Nebraska.
Any grain can be made into porridge, but the most popular traditionally is oatmeal. Instant oatmeal with its pre-sweetened and flavored varieties offers little benefit over the cold, ready to eat versions. Quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats are better choices, but for best flavor, steel-cut (Irish oats) is the winner. This is also the most time-consuming to prepare, but can be simplified with a little planning. Put the desired quantity of oats and water in a pan the night before, adding in a teaspoon of lemon juice. The acidic juice neutralizes certain elements that make the grain both hard to digest and cause insulin spikes. The next morning, cook the grain slowly, allowing about an hour. If this takes too much time, put the oats in a crockpot on low overnight.
Pearled barley, wheat berries, and millet (also known as birdseed) can also be made into porridge. Quinoa, an ancient grain that is gaining popularity because it is gluten-free, cooks more quickly than other grains and has a superior nutritional profile as well. Another gluten-free option is corn meal, preferably stone ground. My children loved corn-meal mush, especially after we read Little House on the Prairie books.
Internationally speaking, children around the world begin their day with a porridge called congee, also known as jook. It is rice that is cooked with lots of water, and has additions of nuts, seeds, or fruit. On the more savory side, sometimes pieces of fish or meat are added and topped with spring onions.
Hot cereal must be topped off properly with rich cream and real butter and a little raw honey or dried cane juice. Children need the saturated fat for their growing brains. Do not ever use margarine!
For cold cereal, leftover cornbread can be cut into squares and toasted. Or make a batch of brown rice the night before and add in cinnamon, raisins, honey, and cream. In the morning, Rice Pudding is ready to go.
Here’s a recipe for Homemade Cereal Nuggets that is delicious. Children love to help make this, too. It can be made on the sweet side, or the sugar can be reduced. Other foods like nuts and seeds can be added to the batter for extra nutrition. Let your imagination and family’s preferences be your guide.
Homemade Cereal Nuggets
• 7 cups whole wheat flour
• 3 cups packed brown sugar Or Rapadura Or Sucanat
• 2-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon RealSalt sea salt
• 2-1/2 cups buttermilk (or add some lemon juice to fresh milk)
• 6 tablespoons butter, melted
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring, optional --but please use this, it REALLY makes it yummy!
• Milk, preferably RealMilk http://www.realmilk.com/
In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the buttermilk, butter, vanilla and maple flavoring if desired, until combined. Spread into six greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pans. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and turn out on wire racks. When cereal is cool, break into bite-size pieces. Reduce heat to 250° and return cereal to the oven to toast. Bake for 1 hour or until light brown and crisp, stirring every 15 minutes. Store in airtight containers. Serve as a cereal with (raw) milk. Yield: 5 quarts.