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Breakfastime musings about cereal.

Cereal Eats: Why Honey Bunches of Oats Are Nearly the Perfect Cereal

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[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

All my life, I've been told I exaggerate. When I was a kid, I remember every single new movie or song I experienced became, not only my favorite, but also the best in existence. With food, and with cereal in particular, it only gets more intense.

I am realizing this use of hyperbole might slightly dampen whatever cereal cred I appear to have. (I do appear to have cred...right?) So in that spirit, I am going to try to restrain myself in this post. Can't you see by the fact that I put the word NEARLY in the title?

The fact is this: I love a lot of cereals. And I claim a lot of cereals are my favorite, or awesome, or the best. I stand by those claims. But Honey Bunches of Oats is different. There is an expert, I dare say scientific, combination of components that make this cereal balanced, satisfying and utterly delicious.

Honey Bunches of Oats was introduced in 1988; I became aware of the cereal around high school. Though it isn't a terribly obvious sugary offender, my mom was wise to the little frosted flakes in the medley and very rarely allowed this one inside the castle walls. So I had my Bunches love affair at my best friend Alex's house.

I'd go over to her house after school and while Alex would make some sort of intense meat, cheese and veggie type snack, my sister and I would head right for her cereal cabinet—we knew the big box of Bunches was waiting. Friends always thought it was weird when we did this, but we were deprived! Sometimes we'd be hanging out watching TV in her basement and I'd make an excuse to go upstairs, where I'd dig in for a few extra furtive, desperate handfuls. Had to get it while it was within my grasp.

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Why is Honey Bunches so awesome? I'm not going to go as far as to say there are two distinct camps: sugary cereals and plainer cereals. The world of cereal spans from the chocolate-y or brightly colored sugariest, to the healthiest cardboard, with every shade in between. But to simplify things, let's say that Frosted Flakes are the extreme of sweet and Corn Flakes are the extreme of basic.

The fact is that Honey Bunches of Oats falls exactly in the middle, at the nexus of cereal perfection.

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The there are now 10 varieties of Honey Bunches of Oats, including "Just Bunches," but today, we'll just talk about the original. I haven't tried all the flavors, yet, but there's something about HBO's simplicity that makes me love it all the more. The box says the cereal is made up of "Crispy Flakes, Crunchy Oat Clusters, and a Touch of Honey." But I think there is far more involved.

Do the crispy flakes refer to the perfectly golden, deliciously plain tasting flakes, or the crunchy, sugar-crusted ones? What about those strange oddly shaped brown speckled flakes that impart their own toasty flavor? The clusters are lightly sweet and evenly dispersed throughout the cereal.

Side note: I was oddly not a fan of "Just Bunches." There was a strange flavor that didn't belong. What I love about the bunches in HBO is that they aren't overly jazzed up. Just simply oats and sweetness.

I think Honey Bunches really set the bar for me in terms of cereal texture. It's not the neatest cereal to eat in handfuls, but true HBO lovers will make the crumby sacrifice. The cereal excels in milk and the multiple textures meld into one, nearly perfect, bite.

Alright, now this means I'm going to have to give a run through of all the flavors. Stay tuned next week!

Anyone got a favorite Bunches flavor? Anyone else agree that HBO is everything a cereal should be?

About the author: 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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