Serious Eats

Cereal Eats: Grape Nuts, Neither A Grape Nor a Nut—Discuss

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[Photographs: Jessica Leibowitz]

Grape Nuts, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Is it your mysterious name? Shhh wait—don't tell me. I don't want to know what it means. Is it your unique warm and nutty flavor? Is it the way I can't hear anything when I'm eating you because the crunching is just too loud? Is it your versatility; How I love you just as much whether you're crunchy or soggy?

Shall I go on?

I'll spare you.

I may be in a minority here, but I'm going to say it proudly—I love Grape Nuts with an intensity that frightens me. Look, I get it. It's hard and crunchy and kind of weird-tasting and not that sweet. I've heard it compared to dog food, cardboard, and pebbles. But as for me, I love Grape Nuts and I want to shout it from the rooftops.

Growing up, Grape Nuts were welcome in our home. I mean, it only has four ingredients: whole grain wheat flour, malted barely flour, salt, and dried yeast. So while many people equate Frosted Flakes or Cocoa Krispies as a nostalgic cereal, my childhood tasted of Grape Nuts. I usually enjoy most cereals exclusively with icy cold skim, but Grape Nuts is one of the few that I like with a heartier milk, like 2%. I am also not opposed to a yogurt parfait, or if left entirely unsupervised, a splash of half and half.

So onto the burning question—why are they called Grape Nuts?

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Alright, well I know I said I didn't want to know, but as a good cereal journalist, it's my duty to bring you the truth.

So I did some hard research (scanning Wikipedia) only to find that there is no definite answer to this mystery. Wikipedia says that C.W. Post believed that sucrose, which he called "grape sugar," formed during the baking process. (yeah I don't get it either). So this, plus the nutty flavor, may have created the name. Another story is that perhaps it was inspired by the cereal's similarity to grape seeds in appearance. I'm secretly happy there is no true answer to this question.

Created in 1897, Grape Nuts were once among the more heavily marketed cereals, even rising to the ranks of the seventh most popular cereal at one point. This was all before my time. Since then, sales have woefully declined. These days, Post has revamped their image of the cereal and it is being marketed as a great fuel for all sorts of athletic activities, as well as an all round healthy cereal.

The truth is, none of that business matters to me. Sure, it's great that Grape Nuts has all this nutritional value—fiber, whole grains, good for your heart, etc. I also don't mind that it has a whopping 200 calories per ½ cup, a little fact I didn't know about while pounding half boxes of it in high school.

But when it gets down to it there's just something about that malty flavor, and the way those crazy little kernels feel when I'm crunching them in my teeth to the point where I am in pain, or that awesome moment when they start to get a little soft. I'd trade all the sugary cereals in the grocery aisle for one box of these guys. You can hold me to that.

Oh and a word on the magical creation that is Grape Nuts Ice Cream. So apparently it's common in Eastern Canada and New England, and also in Jamaica. I'm almost embarrassed to say I only had it for the first time very recently, at the Jamaica restaurant Miss Lily's. Life changing.

Crazy as it may seem, Grape Nuts is truly one of those cereals that I can't keep in the house, because I will sit down and consume the box in one sitting. I think it is one of those polarizing cereals, you either love it or you hate it.

So, where do you stand? Am I alone?

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