The Background

It's safe to say that the novelty aspect of breakfast cereals is often more engaging than the product. All cereals are essentially the same: take a grain, add some sugar or dried fruit, color accordingly, and you're set. So the cereal aisle has taken to a variety of pandering tactics over the years: movie and television tie-ins; products shaped like other, more desirable food products; and of course, rampant animated anthropomorphism.

But by far the most tried and true method has been: "When in doubt, add more sugar."

Frosted Cheerios, Frosted Corn Flakes, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Frosted Chex ... all of the old non-sugar standbys have been saccharinated for a generation that essentially grew up dumping sugar on their bland grains anyway. If there ever was a childhood memory that can simultaneously be cherished and revulsed, it's eating that bit of sludgy sugar milk at the bottom of an empty bowl of Rice Krispies. And either through my own taste bud maturity (...) or the cereal industry's increasing zeal for an addiction-based business model (... much more likely), most of the cereals of my youth are way too sweet for me to eat today. I stick to the safe, slightly sweet Crispix and Honey Nut Cheerios, and occasionally indulge in some Lucky Charms.

So basically I'm not expecting this to be an improvement, but I'm open to the possibility. 

The Taste Test

Before eating a bowl of Frosted Rice Krispies, I decided to eat a bowl of regular Rice Krispies as a control. The cute crackling aside, they were (as remembered) nondescript and slightly mealy in my mouth. I took to crushing the last couple of spoonfuls up practically into powder so I wouldn't have to spend another 30 seconds chewing strongly and avoiding breathing in an errant pellet. On the whole: unenthusiastic. This must be what old age tastes like.

Next came a new bowl of krispies, artificially frosted. The crackling effect was undiminished (score one for nostalgia), and the first bite was surprisingly tasty. The main difference between this and pouring sugar over regular Krispies is that the sugar is definitively attached to the rice rather than the milk, so it seems more like regular sweetened cereal (the pre-addiction kind, subtle and satisfying.) But then comes that old feeling of rice cake cottonmouth and general lack of flavor. The sugar coating was soundly defeated by the rice. It's not even close.

I perversely considered pouring sugar on top of the Krispies, but decided that must be an upper limit to the quality of a bowl of toasted rice and we were already on the verge of diminishing returns. The one bright spot? After the Krispies were gone, there was - sure enough - a slightly sludgy milk remnant to finish off (nostalgia: 2). Not enough to redeem the meal, but it was a nice consolation prize.

The Verdict

The hierarchy remains true: in the world of cereal grains, corn > wheat > oat > rice.

The British contingent wants me to duly note that these are called "Ricicles" in the UK, which is fun to say. Not to eat.

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