Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Cerealizing America: The Unsweetened Story of American Breakfast Cereal by Scott Bruce and Bill Crawford

About 10 years ago, I came across this book and just loved it. It went out of print before I thought to buy it so it made my list of books I always look for when I go into used bookstores. During the holidays, I spent a day wandering around Yellow Springs, Ohio, and sure enough, there it was on the top shelf of the cooking section in a small book store for just $12. Sold American! Hell. I'd've bought two copies if they had had them. The joy was in re-reading it and finding it better, funnier and more informative than I remembered.

The story of cereal as a staple of the breakfast table began as a by-product of the health movement during the early part of the 20th century in Battle Creek, Michigan (as featured in The Road to Wellville by T. Coraghessan Boyle) and was helmed by John W. Kellogg, a doctor who ran a sanitarium in Battle Creek. The uncomfortable and apparently ever-present spectre of constipation was on the minds of most Americans and was one of the driving forces in creating a cereal that was good for you. After many unsuccessful attempts to create a healthy but tasty breakfast food, the invention of the flake created an uproar. Today we regard the flake as déclassé and out of style--we have puffs and o's and loops and jacks and bits--but before all of these came the flake and it revolutionized brekky and created a giant industry. From there, you run into C W Post, General Mills and Kelloggs’ own brother, W. K. Kellogg, who really took the flake and ran with it, much to his uptight brothers’ chagrin.

Fast forward a few years and you’ll find that the cereal biz was perhaps the most influential industry to utilize advertising in radio and later in television. Cereal ads created some of the most memorable characters of our youths--Cap’n Crunch (conceived by Jay Ward, creator of Bullwinkle and Rocky), Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam, Quisp, Quake, Lucky the Leprechaun, Sugar Bear and a zillion others--and we ate breakfast with them almost every day.

If you can find the book, buy it. Maybe read it over breakfast.

2 comments:

Peters toys said...

I only got this book last week of Amazon as a gut told me about it! I love collectin cereal toys and am finding this a great read.

Reed Next said...

Glad you found the blog Peter. Let me know what you think of the book once you've finished it.

Reed Next