pavlovian cereal

I was in the kitchen, looking into the living room at something on Food Network. Food Network is mental comfort TV, but cheaper and less fattening than actual comfort food.

L’s arm appeared over the back of the couch, holding an Albertson’s ad aloft for mocking. “This is why they’re in trouble,” she said, pointing to a sale that said 20 for $10. “Like I want to go get twenty cans of anything at once.” We mock Albertson’s a lot for that particular advertising stupidity. I even met an Abertson’s advertising executive in an airport once, and she admitted it was stupid too. And yet, years later, they never learn.

Lower on the page was a photo still life composed of cereal and Poptart boxes. One was an Eggo cereal. I got an instant gleam in my eye, a smile on my face, a wag in my tail. Eggo! Cereal! It’s perfect! It’s brilliant! As a child – and perhaps a bit more recently than that – I ate about one billion Eggo waffles. That number is within just a few boxes of accurate. Eggos are not just waffles. Actually, if you want to argue they’re not waffles at all, I won’t fight you. They’re Eggos. They’re their own thing. They’re my thing. Or used to be.

I did manage to mostly avoid other Eggo products. Blueberry? Special K? Bah! French toast sticks? Mini waffles? I resist all! Eggo. Waffle. Homestyle. That be that. I did recently try their branded syrup – containing, I believe, 0% syrup – mostly because the bottle was shaped like a waffle. (And I have to admit, while it may have been completely fake, it wasn’t bad, and the no-drip spout was completely awesome.) And let’s face it, syrup is not really an Eggo-related product so much as an Eggo accessory. An Eggo extension. For you Firefox users, an Eggo plugin.

Cereal, though – I have some sort of cereal … issue. A magpie-type issue. I see new types of cereal in the store that manage to push my button – usually, by being shaped like little cinnamon buns or something equally appalling – and then I have to buy it. Then I don’t eat it. I don’t even try it. I forget I have it. I never open those cabinets. I never look on top of the fridge. Cereal, as a food category, ceases to exist. Perhaps it is an unwillingness to admit I have a cinnamon bun button.

Unless there is Life cereal in the house. I eat that. I’ve been eating that longer than Eggos, I think.

On the box in the picture, the Eggo cereal looked like a waterfall of waffles. It was like some sort of dream. It was Life Waffles. It was the waffles of life. Something dumb like that. “I must have this.”

L. realized I had no choice, that I was compelled by forces deep in my being. She glanced at the clock. “It’s only 10:20, Albertson’s is still open.”

I had work to do, it was about 28 degrees out, and the cookies we’d baked earlier had taken the cereal desire edge off for the night. “I can wait.”

“Good,” said L. “You know, since you brought Life cereal into the house, K won’t eat any other kind” — that is SO my kid — “and I’m trying to get rid of all the other boxes. We’ve only got crap cereal now and I’m trying to get rid of it so I can buy good cereal.” I realized the crap cereal comment was aimed at my magpie buying habits. I dodged it. At the mere mention of Life cereal, I wanted Life cereal. I was full of cookies, and yet I wanted Life cereal. There has been some sort of mental programming done. I am weak. I debated going to Albertson’s. “I broke down and bought some good cereal today, actually.”

“Oh? What did you get?”

She hesitated for the merest blip of a moment. “Peanut Butter Crunch.”

I wondered at the hesitation; she is six months pregnant, and everything is fair game. She was pretty good with her food pyramid diet whatever before, and will be again. There is no shame in a pregnant desire for Peanut Butter Crunch, although I think she knows I think it’s weird and wrong and unnatural. (Life cereal is natural. Eggo cereal is weird and right, although I will probably buy it, not try it, and wait months for our toddler to get through it. Cinnamon Bun Cereal is just weird and yet I must buy it.) Peanut Butter Crunch cravings are better than during the first pregnancy when it was tater tots all the time. And not just anyone’s tater tots – they had to be from Fanci Freeze. So there was no need to hesitate, and yet she did hesitate. She felt some need to fight her programming. I need to think about this.

I’ll ponder it tomorrow in the cereal aisle at Albertson’s.


This was published on 26 Jan 2006.
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