In Defense of Stale Cereal

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This is a mid-afternoon blog about breakfast cereal on a planet rapidly hurtling toward extinction-level climate crisis so we either apologize for wasting your time or providing a valuable detour. A tweet from political journalist Jessica Huseman came across the feed a few hours ago and it's provided a surprising creative spark as well as an internal debate, which will now go public.

Upon first read, I couldn't have agreed more. This is one of those classic We Put a Man on the Moon But You're Telling Me We Can't ... prompts that every single person uses as a springboard to thinking about the inequitable advance of technology in our world. Crisp cereal is a universal pursuit and progress is often tied to ease, so on paper this feels like completely controversial. But the longer I spent thinking about it — and yeah, it's probably too much time — the more doubt crept in.


Because self-reflection helps me realize that, somehow, the challenge and difficulty involved in preserving cereal for future consumption is one I embrace. More than that, I think I earnestly enjoy it. Resealable bags are surely coming somewhere over the event horizon and standing in the way of innovation usually doesn't happen on the right side of history. When that day comes, I will honestly miss the extra step of making sure the cheap plastic bag is wrapped neatly to prevent outside air — the Bad Air as it's called scientifically — from entering. I will miss securing the cardboard tab through its accompanying slot. I will miss the unpredictability of opening up a bag, stored in the pantry since God knows when and rolling the dice. I'll even miss the unmistakable, yet oddly adequate stale cereal in a pinch.

Caretaking cereal is quite possibly the one minor inconvenience around the house I enjoy. Though generally neat and responsible, my ledger is littered with hundreds of justified complaints about loose chip bags, sloppy bread closures and even being so lazy as to use a Tupperware top that is close enough by my standards but nowhere near my wife's bar, pushed much higher by the presence of some self-respect. Then there's the halfhearted and begrudging effort that maintaining the yard against the particular hells of all four seasons. Spending immediate time to prevent future problems is something I don't value enough and yet the cereal thing ... just speaks to me.

Cereal is a cheap gamble. Losing a box to the elements hardly registers. There's a four-second grieving period. This is because, like Jerry Seinfeld understood about fruit, we know it's a gamble going in. And that purchasing the breakfast staple means a transfer of responsibility. It's perfect when you leave the store. From there, it's incumbent on the would-be eater to shepherd it on its journey.

For under $5 you can scrape together dozens of meals/snacks while potentially learning a valuable life lesson. As a child one learns the hard way what happens when cereal is not treated with care. It's a lesson my 6-year-old recently learned when his beloved Lucky Charms were rendered inedible through human error. It's a low-stakes, high-reward situation. An opportunity for people who want to feel satisfaction in the smallest possible amount of responsibility.

A hell of a system. Not perfect, mind you. Maybe life's not supposed to be that way.