SMOKE: Cereal Killer

Originally published: 3 May 2005

I'm not exactly a breakfast person.

I eat one meal a day, usually after 20h00, and please don't be lecturing me on how unhealthy that is. I know how unhealthy it is. The next person to tell me how unhealthy that is could well get eviscerated late one dark and stormy night.

That's not a threat, nor a promise - it's just an idea.

It's not that I'm not hungry when I wake up - I usually am. But just the very concept of breakfast is so tainted with the dark memories of horror meals I had to endure as a boy I find I am unable to stomach morning eating, if you'll pardon the pun.

I stopped eating breakfast in my teens and only started again as a student, when many a morning at the Grahamstown Festival was spent soaking up the booze from the night before with greasy eggs, bacon, toast, sausage, fries, coffee and beer.

I began to associate breakfast with a particularly nasty, hungover sort of feeling, and for the last decade I've steadfastly ignored my morning meal.

Just about the only thing I can eat in the morning is a Great Traditional Wimpy Breakfast, but it can be no earlier than 11h00 and I must be en route somewhere on a long road trip.

Any Wimpy on any of the country's main highways will do you just nicely, although there's one particularly special one in Riversdal on the edge of the Little Karoo - if you hit it at around 07h00 as the sun is awakening the desert you have a close to spiritual experience.

But that's as good as it gets, I'm afraid.

What I fail to understand is why anyone - no matter how pure of intention they may be - would sit down in the morning and ruin their day with any one of the following:

Pronutro, Jungle Oats, Weetbix, Maltabella, Cornflakes, Muesli, All-Bran anything or Mealiepap.

It just makes no sense. People always tell me they like Pronutro and Weetbix, and I always respond by telling them they're mistaken. I know they don't like them, or are they forgetting I've tried them all myself and thus know how appalling they are?

My regular choice as a kid was between Weetbix, Jungle Oats or Pronutro. They brought out a strawberry-flavoured Pronutro which my younger brother enjoyed but which made me want to throw up just smelling it.

Sometimes the skin of the milk would get mixed in and there would be white strands of milk skin amongst the porridge. Getting to the bottom you would find the Pronutro drying on the sides and mouthfuls would be lukewarm/cool and mixed with milk skin strands - just writing that gives me uncontrollable shivers.

I was introduced to Maltabella at a friend's house - I had to eat it as his mother was watching. I managed to scoop some into a napkin which I left for her to find later and I gagged and spluttered my way through the rest.

A mate of mine used to do a terrible thing. He had powdered milk (that's another whole story which I can't go into right now) and would take a huge glass serving bowl, bung in about 10 Weetbix wedges, pour the milk powder over the Weetbix and then run tap water over the whole monstrous affair.

He'd add about 15 spoons of sugar and stir that ol' mess up, and munchies or no munchies, dude - that's the worst thing I've ever seen in my whole life.

All the terrible porridges and oats I had to eat as a kid were put into stark perspective for me when I visited the USA in 1984.

We went up the East coast from Washington to Maine and stayed on Cranberry Island with people who lived in a huge log cabin house. Waking up for breakfast we were told to help ourselves from a large wooden cupboard, inside of which was the most amazing array of cereal I had ever seen.

I couldn't get enough of it - it was things like Fruit Loops and Choco-Pops but far, far better than our South African versions of them. I tried those Choco- or Cocoa-Pops we have and I was appalled at how small they were - in the US they were big balls of chocolate-coated corn, and you could eat it by the truckload.

Not the healthiest of breakfasts to be sure, but who cares? It tasted good.

If Americans can get cool breakfast cereals why can't we? Are we punishing ourselves for something? Are we better people because we eat fibre and bran?

I don't think so. I think we're blithering idiots, to be frank. We pretend to enjoy disgusting concoctions as if getting through a meal of cold porridge is enough to atone for the sins of a Monday - it's not, friends. It's rubbish, is what it is.

To add insult to injury our cereals are so overpriced I almost go insane with rage when I look at them. I'll admit - occasionally I get a hankering for some sugar-coated corn and I stop by the cereal shelves, but the prices are ridiculous. Especially considering what you're getting, which isn't even enough for one fair-sized meal.

There's a huge gap in the market for decent, easily-prepared breakfasts - I might well eat bacon and eggs if someone would cook it for me, but just the thought of the mess and grease and oily sinks is enough to keep me hungry in the morning.

I hate buggering around for hours in the morning - I'm usually sitting working within 15 minutes of awakening. If I had a good, quick breakfast that is actually tasty I may well eat it though.

As if I'll ever find something like that.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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