A Hamburger Today

Cereal Eats: Are Mini Box Variety Packs a Blessing or a Curse?

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[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone here when I say, I was not allowed to have sugary cereals as a child. There is a cereal brotherhood whose cabinets were filled with dry, healthy twigs and flakes and the occasional unfrosted mini wheat.

I'm sure this factor is hugely responsible for my present-day intense cereal fanaticism. And while I love cereals of all kinds, shapes, sizes and colors, sugary cereals hold a very special place in my heart.

On Christmas and our birthday, my twin sister Giavanna and I were each allowed to get a sweet cereal that we would eat for breakfast, as a snack, as dessert, and deep into the night. Each box would last one to two days tops (we each got our own box). I remember the agonizing process, standing in the cereal aisle at age 11, with a unibrow and braces, nearly in tears over my indecision. Do I go with the classic and magical Lucky Charms, or the sweet, forbidden darkness of Cocoa Puffs? So much pressure.

Vacations, however, presented a different sort of opportunity: these were the times we would get the mini box variety packs. There is something so magical about those mini box sets—no need to make one heartbreaking, game-time decision on a single kind, but instead a variety, spread over several days. But they present another problem: Which pack to choose? (Even the memory of this is stressing me out).

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Kellogg's or General Mills? Do I go for Cinnamon Toast Crunch, knowing I'll have to bear the dead weight of two plain Cheerios? WHY ARE THERE 3 RAISIN BRANS AND ONLY ONE APPLE JACKS?

My sister and I were at an even further disadvantage, as we also had to divide them up between the two of us, a task that usually resulted in tears and hair-pulling. And yet these mini variety packs filled me with unspeakable excitement, with their cruel irony of choices and teeny-tiny serving sizes that always left me wild-eyed and hoping for that one loop that had by accident fallen out in between the cardboard box and the plastic inner bag (you know there is always that one).

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Perhaps the most memorable and nostalgic trait of the mini box variety packs is the fact that they were designed to be their own bowl. I'm sure every one has, at one point in their life, carefully followed those perforated lines and joyously poured milk into the little plastic-lined cardboard box.

Can I be honest? This also stressed me out. Try and tell me that when you lift the spoon out of that small opening that a few stray flakes didn't get knocked out of the box onto the floor—and so help me if a single piece got wasted... Good grief, as if they aren't tiny enough. No, I needed a bowl, ample elbow room, and preferably privacy.

In my adult life, I can't say I have revisited the mini boxes. If I wanted a variety of cereal, I would just go buy six or seven full sized boxes. (These are things adults do). I'm sure there are plenty of memories out there...Let's hear them!

Aside from doing an awesome job with her role as Advertising Sales Manager, Leandra Palermo secretly harbors a lifelong passion with all things crunchy and served with icy cold skim milk. This column represents the culmination of that love affair.

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