By Lisa Smartt
Posted: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 8:01 pm
Cereal confuses me. When I enter the cereal aisle I often stand there with a puzzled look on my face. Sometimes my palms get sweaty and I’m reminded of the time my seventh-grade choir teacher made me sing with my hands on top of my head. He said, “Lisa, you can reach that note. It’s all in your mind. It’s in your attitude.” (Incidentally, I couldn’t reach that note. It wasn’t in my mind. It was in my lack of singing ability.)
The cereal aisle confuses me for the same reason it confuses you. Too many choices. Too many voices in my head. Every adult feels conflicted in the cereal aisle because our desires are at war with each other. We want Frosted Flakes with our hearts. We want All-Bran or Kashi with our minds. The Frosted Flakes would be SO good. They’d be filled with loads of sugary goodness reminding us of the summer of ’72 when we spent a whole week with Aunt Ethel and Uncle George. That’s the summer we ate Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Puffs every morning and every afternoon for snack. What a glorious summer! Now here we are years later in the cereal aisle. Our passionate hearts cry out for Cocoa Puffs. Our very souls long to sail the high seas with Captain Crunch. How could such a friendly cartoon captain steer us wrong?
But then there’s that “other” part of us. The part that pays our phone bill a week early. The part that makes our children wash their hair. The part that reminds us to brush our teeth every morning and wear clean socks (most mornings). It’s also what compels us to participate in the fastest growing all-American activity of all time ... reading product labels. Once our minds convince us to read the nutrition information on the side of the box, Captain Crunch sadly sets sail on a sugary sea of euphoria without us. And we grieve his departure. Oh, how we grieve.
Reading labels means different things to different people. If sugar is not the very first ingredient, I like to consider that cereal a health food. I’m all about Life cereal or Honey Nut Cheerios or Raisin Bran. If you and I exchange greetings in the dairy aisle, I won’t try to hide those cereal boxes with a head of lettuce and a bag of Gala apples. But recently I found myself in the cereal aisle with a young couple who were a tad more contemplative regarding the labels. “Check the fiber content.” “What about the sodium?” “Does that one have an anti-oxidant benefit?” “Needs to be lower on carbs.” “Make sure it says whole grain.”
I felt for the young couple. I did. I desperately wanted to help them. So I did the only thing I knew to do. I grabbed a cardboard stock box and handed it to them. “Here. Put this in your food processor with a little bit of cranberry juice and some whole pomegranates. Pulse for three seconds and enjoy.” They both smiled and I felt like a Good Samaritan. As I turned the corner I glanced back and saw the young man sneak a box of Captain Crunch into their cart between the soy milk and the fresh broccoli. Oh well. I tried. The sugary high seas had once again captured a man’s heart.
For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website lisasmartt.com.
Published in The Messenger 10.13.10