Serious Eats

Cereal Eats: What's The Deal With Product 19?

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[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

As I unearthed Product 19 from its shopping bag at Serious Eats Headquarters, the reaction was unanimous: "What on earth does Product 19 mean? What are the rest of the Products like? Is it some sort of experimental drug?" Yes, though its cover sports a woman doing some sort of yoga on a sepia-toned beach, the overall vibe that Product 19 gives off is one of mystery and intrigue.

Deep in the recesses of my memory, I remember seeing Product 19 on grocery shelves in my youth. It, along with other wallflowers like Basic 4, could hardly stand up to the siren calls of Trix and Lucky Charms, and later in my cereal-for-dinner years I stuck to the safe waters of Special K and Honey Bunches of Oats. From time to time, one of you lovely people will mention Product 19 in the comments, and I finally decided to see what this strange number was all about.

The internet has little to say about this cereal. According to Wikipedia, Product 19 was developed by Kellogg's to compete with Total. It was introduced in 1967, and named so because it was the 19th product Kellogg's was working on that year. Sorry folks, no underground labs were involved in the making of this cereal.

I had never really taken a close look at the box before, and was fully expecting almond slivers, raisins, twigs or clusters of some kind. I was shocked to see this cereal was just simply flakes. A rather rare item, I must say, joining the small flakes-only ranks of Special K and Corn Flakes. I'm a huge fan of those two cereals, so I figured Product 19 and I would get along just fine.

Thing is, I can't quite make my mind up about Product 19. The flakes are comprised of corn, oats, wheat and rice. They're are sturdier than the flakes in Special K, with more malt and graininess than Corn Flakes. There is a good hit of salt and pleasant nubby texture to flakes, and whiffs of the bran flakes of Raisin Bran as well. So I amend my earlier statement—there certainly is an air of mystery to this cereal.

Would I reach for it again? I'm not sure. I do appreciate the simplicity of these just-sweet-enough flakes. Has my mind been clouded by the bells and whistles that new cereal varieties have brought forth? Is there still room in this world for the basic yet complex character that is Product 19?

You tell me!

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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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