the great cereal gross-off: peanut butter cookie crisp edition

Written by Consumerism, Junk Food

During their Biblical forty years of wandering in the desert, the Jews subsisted on a miracle food that fell from the heavens each night. Described as a grain tasting like “flour with honey,” it enabled them to survive in what should have been lethally inhospitable conditions. They called it manna. I prefer to think of it as the world’s first breakfast cereal.

Like many men I know, I have an inordinate preoccupation with cereal. I’ve had long, in-depth conversations with otherwise sane adult males about the relative merits of various breakfast products. Rarely does a trip to the grocery store occur without me dragging poor Leah to the cereal aisle in search of some new and exciting variation. And I’m far from alone in this.

Women don’t understand it. They approach cereal the same way they look at cars — function over form, practicality over flair. I believe they’ve always been this way; as little girls, they don’t get overly excited about Cap’n Crunch or the Trix Rabbit. Boys, on the other hand, go positively insane for any brightly colored box giving off the slightest whiff of sugar. We carry this intense love affair into our adult lives when, as slovenly bachelors, we realize that — aside from being totally awesome — cereal is delicious, portable, and convenient. Cooking for yourself sucks! Just pour a bowl of sugary goodness and you’re all set!

And, because we always ate the coolest cereals under the disapproving gaze of parents who couldn’t believe the crap we talked them into getting for us, it’s those very same cereals we return to as grown-ups. Now nobody can tell us what to do. We can eat an entire box of Crunch Berries and nobody can stop us. This is what adulthood is for.

There were lots of great cereals when I was a kid — any of the Cap’n Crunch varieties were cool, or Trix, or even Lucky Charms. Usually around Halloween, the grocery store would start stocking the Day-Glo trifecta: Count Chocula, Frankenberry, and Boo Berry. And then there were the fad brands, like C-3P0s or Smurf Berry Crunch. Most of them — as a final “fuck you” to parents desperately trying to steer their kids toward healthier fare — came with toys (or what at least looked like a toy on the box). One cereal, though, was always cooler than the rest; it didn’t even need to include a toy to get your attention. I’m talking, of course, about Cookie Crisp.

It’s the simplest, most ingeniously clever idea for a children’s food in the history of food itself. What do kids love more than anything? Cookies. So how do you make the perfect kids’ cereal? Why, you take cookies and put them in a bowl. End of story. Sure, they had the obligatory goofy mascot and cartoon commercials, but it didn’t matter. They could have just put “COOKIE CEREAL” in generic black type on a plain white box and it would have sold just as well.

I mean, really. Cookie cereal. I hope the guy who thought of it won some awards. And that he lives in a gigantic mansion. Made out of cookies.

Anyway, while other cereals have tinkered with their formula over the years in various efforts to boost sales, Cookie Crisp has resolutely remained the same (that brief “vanilla wafer” experiment doesn’t count). You don’t tinker with perfection, after all, and besides, what changes could you possibly make?

They found one:

I had my doubts about this. Sure, peanut butter cookies are good, but with a main ingredient that’s marginally healthy, they’re nowhere near as cool as chocolate chip. And what’s with this stupid new mascot?

His name is Chip, and he’s a wolf, I guess. The message here seems to be that wolves like peanut butter, or that burglars don’t; I’m not sure. Either way, he doesn’t know how to say “cookie”:

Actually, I just looked, and I guess Chip is now the mascot for Peanut Butter and regular Cookie Crisp. When did this happen? Why? Did Chip eat the burglar?

Anyway.

I poured myself a bowl:

Looks good, huh?

It is. I shouldn’t have worried. I should have known the good people at Cookie Crisp wouldn’t let me down. It’s like a bowl full of little peanut butter cookies — crispy but not too crispy — and though nothing could be as good as the original, this comes fairly close. I had two bowls.