Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sugar Shock and Awe

Like I intimated in my previous post, I used to have a running battle with my mom regarding breakfast food. 

Mom always insisted that we eat things that were, get this: “Good for us.”


We were forced to eat stacks of pancakes and waffles, oatmeal, eggs, omelets… We had to snack on fruit, not Froot Loops… It was child abuse!  If we got cereal at all, it had to be something “nutritious”, like Wheaties or Cheerios.  From what I could tell, the word “nutritious” was just a synonym for “tastes like ass.” 

As kids who only get to watch what we want on TV during Saturday morning cartoons, we were subjected to about a jillion hours worth of commercials for exotic sugary cereals.  And then to never be allowed any?  That’s a crime against childhood.

And it wasn’t just breakfast… no chips, little candy, no pop, no grapes and no head lettuce.  I know the latter two don’t really go with the sugary set, but we couldn’t have them because mom was supporting the migrant worker strike in the 60’s.

Like I care about migrant workers, Mom, I’m six!  I want some grapes.”

You might think my childhood was just one long culinary nightmare, but we had an ace in the hole… Grandma!  (My maternal grandma, which made for such delicious irony.)

Grandma always had Pop Tarts and the good cereals.  In fact, she usually had that Kellog’s Snack Pack… you know, the deal with like 8 different little boxes of cereal, like Alpha Bits, Sugar Smacks, Sugar Pops, Froot Loops and my favorite, Sugar Frosted Flakes.  Whoever got up first got first pick, so there was often a race to get downstairs and claim our sweet prize.

Grandma also kept candy in the house.  The only down side to that was it was kept in one of those china candy jars with the lid.  Do you know how hard it was to get the lid on and off without making that “ting” sound?  My brother and I would be working that thing like Indiana Jones with that gold idol in the cave.  

But regardless of our attempts at subtlety, there would always be a “ting”, followed by “HEY, GET OUT OF THAT CANDY JAR!  YOU’LL SPOIL YOUR DINNER!

In all my years, I’ve never once spoiled my dinner.  (Dinner was just too good.) 

But what I really wanted was Pop Tarts.  The Pop Tart Wars lasted until well into my teens.  I’d come down before school and Mom would say, “What would you like for breakfast, honey?  Pancakes?

Do we have any Pop Tarts?

You know damn well we don’t have any Pop Tarts.  You’re getting pancakes.”

I knew we didn’t have Pop Tarts, but I felt I needed to make the point.  Although I wasn’t so idealistic that I would inhale a stack of pancakes, either.  A dude’s gotta eat…

So cut to about 10 years later.  I’m living on my own in Cleveland, a long way from home for the first time.  Some time during my first year out there, Mom came to visit for a couple days.  I was managing a record store, so it wasn’t like I could just stay home and entertain for the whole time.  So Mom would be rambling around my little apartment while I was gone.

Before she arrived, I had a grand idea… I knew she probably worried about what her baby was eating now that he was fending for himself.  It was a perfect opportunity for some payback.  So I decided I would go out and buy a shitload of Pop Tarts and leave them hidden all over the apartment.  I’d put them on the CD rack, between books on the bookshelves, between the sofa cushions, in the bathroom cabinet… Everywhere she went, she’d find evidence of my sugary rebellion.  It would be hilarious.

Yeah, it was a great idea, right up until I paid attention to how much a box of Pop Tarts cost, and how many boxes I’d need.  Yeesh… Hey, I worked retail; I wasn’t making jack.

Gah!  Maybe Mom knew what she was doing after all.  She loved the idea though.  And now, all these years later, I wish I had just done it. 

If nothing else, it would have made a much better story.


  1. Somehow mothers always know the real scoop.

    You should have eaten at my house growing up and you would think you were in heaven. We always ate healthy that's for sure, but the food was devoid of juice, gravy or anything that made it actually taste good.

    My ace in the hole was my dad. He could cook his ass off, but he wasn't home until late so most of the time I endured my mom's cooking.

    But there's nothing like a good bowl of Capn' Crunch while enjoying Bugs Bunny on Saturday morning.

    And oh yeah, I love Pop Tarts!!!

    PS. What record store in Cleveland did you work at? Record Exchange was one of my favorites. Was there Record Revolution too in Coventry?? There was another one on Lee Rd. that I used to go to too. I did a lot of trading records in those days.

  2. It's funny how all the cereals back then had "Sugar" in the name, then they all responded to the negative press over sugary cereals, not by removing some of the sugar, but by changing the name. Sugar Crisp became Golden Crisp, Sugar Smacks became Honey Smacks, etc. No one was fooled by it, but it allowed parents to tell themselves the cereals weren't that bad.

    I never liked that stuff as a kid (and I wouldn't touch a pop-tar with a 10-ft pole). I always liked Cheerios and Raisin Bran (I know! WTF?). The only sugary cereal I liked was Lucky Charms and back then, it only had like 20 marshmallows in the whole box, unlike now when the ratio of cereal to marshmallows is about 1:1 billion

  3. One GOOD Pop Tart quality: DURABILITY!!! If/when you do stock your apartment with these yummies, be certain they will last FOREVER. Preservatives, (unpronouncible chemicals), are the main ingredient. Bon(e) Appettite!
    Just don't hide them in the candy jar.

  4. @ Gina: And even better, now they all claim to have "whole grains"!

    My mom was the same way, only with the amount of butter and fake maple syrup she favored, I didn't see much nutritional difference between PopTarts and pancakes. Also, migrant workers weren't a factor.

    I actually didn't have PopTarts when I left. I had the store brand knockoff. I bet your mom would've enjoyed that, too!

    What do you fix yourself now? My favored breakfast today is allegedly better for me than other things I could have, but I would not have gotten Envirokidz Peanut Butter Panda Puffs and chocolate soy milk as a kid! (It's like a hippie Reese's for breakfast, and the pandas on the box are cute.)

  5. The horror! Clearly your mom needed to be reported to CYS.

    I think you need to give her a box of Pop Tarts for Christmas this year. Make sure they are all wrapped up and purdy.

  6. Priceless. As a kid our Mom wanted to sleep in, so before she went to bed, she'd portion out some sort of sugary cereal and milk in a cup and keep it in the fridge. When we woke up in the morning we'd serve ourselves and watch tv. It was a win/win situation. Hats off to single moms!

  7. Guy:
    Luckily, lunches and dinners were the BOMB! Mom is a fabulous cook. There were some lean times back then, though. My parents had 3 kids in 5 years, so dollars had to be streeeeetched. I still can't stand tuna casseroles... But Mom always had a way with making seemingly desperate measures seem fun. Some nights we'd have Breakfast for Dinner: Scrambled eggs, cinnamon toast and juice. Other nights, it was Plate'O Stuff: Sliced apples, walnuts & raisins, Velveeta cheese, whatever was handy. We loved it!

    I know Record Exchange, but I never worked there. I ran the Recordtown in Parmatown Mall for a year, before taking over the Peaches (renamed Coconuts) in Maple Hts. I started at a Peaches in Toledo back when they were independent. They were then bought out by a large corporation. (Thus sucking all the fun out of the experience of working there.)

  8. Gina:
    Yes, it was such a more honest time... they called stuff what it was. Then it was, "why change the formula when we can just repackage the same stuff? Damned marketing department. Same with Froot Loops. They were not allowed to call it Fruit Loops because there was no fruit inside. "Hey, lets just change the spelling and we'll be in the clear!"

    Thank you, Marketing.

    In later years, Mom finally bent a little and let us have Golden Grahams. I could live with that. Although I still wanted the Pop Tarts.

  9. Lilo:
    Once I had to start buying my own Pop Tarts, (and I did, especially right after I first got out on my own) I went right for the store-brand. I had to watch every nickel back then. But they really weren't bad.

    I don't really eat breakfast now... I get up and read my paper every morning, over Diet Coke and heroin. (OK, j/k on the horse) Once I get to work, I keep a stash of breakfast bars there, just to get something in my stomach. It keeps me from getting famished by lunch and pigging out.

  10. Cassie:
    Your mom has obviously done a remarkable job with her girls. =o)

    When I was very young, (like 6 and below) we were not allowed to get up on Saturdays before we heard the parents get up. They, too, also wanted some weekend shut-eye. So there we'd be, my brother, sister and I, all up about 8:00 and wanting to watch cartoons, with our little ears pressed up to the bedroom door, straining to hear any signs of life.

    Once I got into around 3rd grade, Mom trained me how to make coffee. Then I'd get myself up (by that time we were allowed to get up, as long as we didn't make any noise, and kept the TV verrrrrry low) make the coffee, prepare one black for Dad and one with cream for Mom, and bring them up to their bedroom around 9. I kept that up until I was a sophomore in high school, believe it or not... (when I discovered the joys of sleeping til' noon.)

    OK, you're probably going to see this story again... I'm going to have to make an actual post out of it in the future.


Agree? Disagree? Tell me what you think!

Note: Spam comments will never EVER see the light of day. Don't even bother because I'm way more stubborn than you.