Thursday, January 31, 2008


. . . my single most favorite cereal. And believe me, I have lots of favorites. Why is it my favorite? Because when you add milk, sugar, and enough bananas to it, all you taste is milk, sugar, and bananas. It's the next best thing to a bowl of milk, sugar, and bananas, only it makes you think you're being healthier because it's "fortified" and I'm reaching that point in my life where I can use some fortification. And if you're having it for lunch, just add a little less sugar. And if for dinner, just make sure you have dessert afterward so you can really call it a meal.

When I was a kid, my cereal of choice was Lucky Charms. My mother never bought these, so I relied on my grandmother sneaking them to me on Saturday mornings with whispers of, "Shh. Don't tell your mother." And, okay, I admit it, I ate them in college, too. Kept a box of them on my desk and a gallon of milk in the mini-fridge. And alright, if you're going to push me on this, I've eaten them since I've had kids, switching to Fruity Pebbles on occasion for variety. But I don't buy them anymore. Honest. I was feeling bad about hoarding them, hiding in my room to eat them, telling the kids between bite fulls of crunchy marshmallows, no, you can't have these, they're only for grown-ups who have stopped growing and don't need the healthy stuff anymore. Same reason I get to drink Diet Coke instead of orange juice in the morning. Because, because, because.

Now I'm back to Cornflakes. And it's a good thing, too, because it's one of the few breakfast cereals the grocery stores here carry that isn't $7 a box or coated in chocolate or both. And, better yet, one of the "hypermarkets" (supermarkets) was selling promotional boxes: free bowl attached. You know the one: big, deep, and heavy with that colorful rooster (it is a rooster, right?) on it. That same bowl would run you 38 boxtops and $16.50 postage in the States. And then your four kids would fight over it until you hid it in a cupboard and swore you would make them eat nothing but plain oatmeal for a week unless they could learn to get along, be more generous, share with each other, and, daggone it all, put their dirty clothes in the laundry because don't they understand how much you do for them already without having to pick up their rooms as well?!? But here, you can buy 4 boxes of cereal, get 4 bowls, and--here's the best part--instructions on how to eat the cereal!

Yeah, that's right. Instructions. At another grocery store this week, I found a Nestle cereal that wasn't coated in chocolate. They don't sell it in the States, so don't run out looking for it. And, attached to this box, was another bowl, this one a bit smaller, but, hey, there are mornings when I want to eat my cereal out of the rooster bowl. When I put the new blue bowls away at home, I noticed some writing--English and Arabic--on the plastic bag it came in: "Fill to line, add milk, and enjoy." (I decided I wouldn't mind instructions on how to eat some of the foods here. Like, "Don't try chewing the hard thing in the soup" or "As a matter of fact, don't ask what the hard thing in the soup is.") Cereal is just not a common breakfast food here. What is common? Plain yogurt, olives, and bread.

We did have breakfast out the other morning at an Indian restaurant. I didn't expect cereal, certainly, or even eggs and toast or pancakes or waffles or French toast or good old Southern grits. But I didn't really expect dosas either. Yummy, just not a first-thing-in-the-morning kind of food for this American stomach.

So I'm sticking with my Cornflakes. Then I'm packing my bowls carefully and bringing them back to Pittsburgh with me because nothing says souvenir like a cereal bowl from a country that doesn't eat cereal.

And, by the way, of course I let my kids eat the Lucky Charms. What kind of mother do you think I am?


Val said...

I thought of you last night as I gorged myself on Lucky Charms. I made the mistake of buying 4 boxes because it was such a good sale. I had forgotten how tasty they are!

Shankar said...

Good on you for trying (and liking) dosas. Of course, as I am a south Indian, they are part of my normal breakfast routine. But so are oatmeal, toast and eggs.