Part of a Complete Breakfast
by Tim Hollis
University Press of Florida
I don’t know about kids today, who spend the crucial fifteen minutes between sweet dreams and running for the bus inhaling bowls of Honey Bunches of Oats while scrolling Instagram for photos of their friends smoking pot. In MY day, we spent this quality time ignoring each other in much more socially acceptable ways, like hiding behind the newspaper (if we were the dad), smoking cigarettes at the table (if we were the mom), or engrossing ourselves in the back of the cereal box (if we were everyone else).
Tim Hollis brings us back to the breakfast cereal heyday with Part of a Complete Breakfast: Cereal Characters of the Baby Boom Era, and let me just say that this time trip makes for much more riveting reading than anything on Instagram.
Remember Freakies? King Vitaman? Sugar Stars? What in hell were our parents feeding us? Most likely, the moms and dads of the Baby Boom, being characteristically indulgent, simply bought whatever brand their darling children squalled from the back of the shopping cart — and most likely, that was whatever we had seen on TV. While the appeal of some of the most effective cereal hawkers is questionable by today’s standards, this mixed bag of nuts — which runs the gamut from Corn Flakes’ Sweetheart of the Corn, to the Trix Rabbit, to Count Chocula and Franken Berry — is certainly interesting, and it gets downright weird once we stumble into the ’70s.
Hollis tracks the evolution of lots of breakfast characters, the original depictions of which often border on gruesome, while taking a less obvious (or more, depending on your personal attachment to dietary norms) stroll through the nutritional trends (I like to call them fads) of the era that encompasses the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. There are lots of photos, lots of marketing history nuggets, and a gorgeous bibliography for serious cereal studiers.
It’s a great read over your grande sugar-free half-caf extra hot soy with extra foam and 420-calorie pumpkin cream-cheese muffin — or whatever it is you grown-ups are eating at the crack of dawn these days.