Once a year.
That's how often my mom let me have what she called "junk food cereal," also known as candy in a bowl with milk, for breakfast. It was one of her only rules, and it was rather arbitrary considering she had no problem letting me navigate New York City by myself starting in fifth grade.
The junk food cereal ban had the opposite effect from what my mom intended, though. Like many restrictions, the taboo only led to a fascination and diligent cataloging of all the different junk food cereals that existed in the 80's, and which I plotted to consume voraciously on my annual junk food cereal Rumspringa.
Here were some of my favorites. I would stare at the boxes longingly in the cereal aisle of the Food Emporium supermarket on 256th Street and Riverdale Avenue in the Bronx, while fondly recalling their corresponding television jingles. Some are still available, most have been discontinued, but all were the very essence of breakfast.
1. Cookie Crisp: This was literally cookies in a bowl with milk. I see General Mills now has a "goodness corner" on the right hand side of the box, where it attempts to assign some sort of nutritional value to what is essentially Chips Ahoy cookies in milk, in a bowl, for breakfast. All while openly admitting that there is "a mouthful of CHIPS in every bite!" Of course, Cookie Crisp's "goodness corner" has all the credibility of Phillip Morris's cancer research endeavors. "COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKIE CRISP!"
2. Count Chocula/Franken Berry/Boo Berry: This was perhaps the single most coveted series of junk food cereal. The problem was I could only choose one, and I could never decide if I wanted dehydrated fake strawberry flavored marshmallows, dehydrated fake chocolate flavored marshmallows, or dehydrated fake blueberry flavored marshmallows for breakfast. And since I only got one per year, I never chose any. These monster-themed marshmallow junk food cereals remain the Holy Grail of junk food cereal. "MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!"
3. Lucky Charms: When I went the marshmallow route, I usually chose "FROSTED LUCKY CHARMS, THEY'RE MAGICALLY DELICIOUS!" But would pick out all of the marshmallows and eat them for breakfast while leaving behind the dry, dog-food part of the cereal for more desperate times. So ultimately it was sort of a bad deal. Also, I feel like Lucky the Leprechaun now seems a little racist against Irish-Americans?
4.Super Sugar Crisp/Sugar Bear: This sugar-coated puffed-wheat cereal was popular when girls were girls, men were men, cereal came with plastic toy prizes instead of stupid Box Tops for Education, and Monsanto wasn't afraid to admit that it created a cartoon bear to feed America's youth straight-up refined sugar for breakfast. The good old days!
5. Rice Krispies Treats Cereal: As I recall, this cereal came out after my mom had stopped strictly enforcing the once-a-year junk food cereal rule, so instead of taking regular Rice Krispies, furtively dumping a cup of white granulated sugar on top of it while watching Pee Wee's Playhouse, and slurping all the gray, wet sugar sludge out of the bottom of the bowl like it was the elixir of life, the sugar now came IN the cereal. WIN!
6. Reeses Peanut Butter Puffs and Oreo Cookie Cereal: Also a slightly latter-era junk food cereal, Reese's Puffs and Oreo O's didn't even try to pretend it wasn't candy for breakfast. In other words, these cereals were to breakfast what Donald Trump is to white supremacy.
7. Cinnamon Toast Crunch: Like Sugar Bear cereal, Cinnamon Toast Crunch emerged at a time when it was considered a badge of honor to feature "real sugar in every bite" of a breakfast cereal. Way to own it, General Mills! Today, these cereal companies are just a bunch of pussies who try to downplay their sugar content by claiming it's really agave or some shit. Fuck that. For me, seeing that little jolly old cartoon man baker offering me a loaf of cinnamon toast from my kitchen cabinet was like a strung-out junkie seeing a crack dealer on the street.
8. Ice Cream Cones Cereal: Enough said. I love how the prize inside was gumballs, because there wasn't enough sugar in the cereal itself. At least it had "4 wholesome grains" plus "8 vitamins and iron!" It also had 1,000 grams of sugar per serving, but hey, who's counting!?
9. Smurf-Berry Crunch: Ah, there was nothing like pairing your Saturday morning cartoons with a matching cereal. Despite being "fortified with 10 essential vitamins and minerals," the main ingredients in this were obviously Red #4 and Blue #8, both of which were produced en masse from chemical silos along the New Jersey turnpike. Also, let's not front: the Smurfs fucking SUCKED. Have you watched it recently? Terrible!
10. Trix: "SILLY RABBIT, TRIX ARE FOR KIDS!" It's also for turning milk a pale Pepto-Bismol pink, and for making you feel like you were eating gumballs for brekky, "guarantees" of "whole grain" notwithstanding. YUM! Personally, I preferred Fruity Pebbles or Cocoa Krispies, because the milk/sugar absorption factor was higher given the size and texture of the cereal bits.
And there you have it, folks: a whirlwind tour through junk food cereals of yore!