Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Snap, Crackle, and Pop...

I don’t know if it is all the snow but I had porridge for breakfast this morning for the first time in almost fifty years. Porridge with honey and I quite enjoyed it.

The last time I ate anything like porridge was back in the late sixties when I nagged my mum to buy a packet of Ready Brek. Back then it was made by Lyon’s and advertised as ‘Central Heating for Kids’. I didn’t really like the cereal but really wanted to glow like the kids in the adverts. In reality I knew that I wouldn’t, but the possibility intrigued me. Maybe I should have tried coating myself in radioactive waste instead.

I’ve never been a huge fan of cereal but as a kid we ate it for breakfast and sometimes for supper before bed, Rice Crispies usually – Snap, Crackle, and Pop. Remember them? Snap, the one in the baker’s cap, has been around since 1932, Crackle and Pop joined him the year after. In Sweden they’ve changed their names and are Piff, Paff, and Puff! In Germany they’re Knisper, Knasper, and Knusper. Mexico: Pim, Pum, and Pam. Finland: Poks, Riks, and Raks. Canada: Cric, Crac, and Croc. Holland: Pif, Paf, and Pof, in South Africa they are known as Knap, Knaetter, and Knak, and in Thailand they're Bum, Tit, and Arse.

I was constantly being told on the TV that cereal, so full of sugar, salt, and various e’s was good for me - but cereal, despite the obvious dietary benefits and as all of us kids knew - was really about toys, the free plastic figures that came with the cereal (or did the cereal come with the toys)? It was the toys that decided what cereal I’d bother, nag, and mither my mother to buy for me - Weetabix, Corn Flakes, Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes, Frosties, Rice Crispies, Quaker Oats, Coco Pops, Shredded Wheat, Shreddies - never Special ‘K’ though. Special ‘K’ was brown worms for old people and didn’t come with toys.

I remember tearing open the waxed paper inner packet of a box of Corn Flakes, tipping them all over the kitchen table, and searching through it with my fingers so that I could find my Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, Little John, the Sheriff, Alan A’Dale, or Maid Marian. My mum was always furious, but it was the same every time. I just couldn’t wait for the figure to appear ‘naturally’ in my bowl. I just had to get my hands on it as soon as the box was opened, sometimes even before the old box was finished.

I loved the spacemen that came with Corn Flakes, and the busts of the Kings and Queens of England, and Sooty and Friends, and Thunderbirds, and the Tony the Tiger figures that came with Frosties… Theyyyy’re Great! Well, better than Sugar Puffs that’s for sure. At Christmas my mum would buy a Kellogg’s variety pack, small boxes of cereal kept together in a polythene wrapper, mainly because my grandparents would visit from Lincoln and my grandmother would only eat special ‘K’. Well I did say it was brown worms for old people.

These days there seem to be hundreds of different types of breakfast cereals, the supermarket shelves are full of them. They boggle my mind, but occasionally I buy a box of Crunchos, or Nutri-Good, or Spaceabix, or Woodflakes, anything that catches my eye. We have a cupboard in our kitchen where we put the cereals I insist on buying then tire of after the first bowlful. It’s a kind of cereal burial ground, where the old cereals go to die. Anyway, at the moment it contains some Muesli, two types of Granola, a big box of Crunchy Nut Flakes, and of course my porridge – all of which will end up as bird food eventually as it always does. Birds seem to love cereal.

It was Maid Marian by the way, but I got them all eventually.


  1. Andy Bickerdike commented on Facebook:

    Andy wrote "nothing seems to come with them anymore.. except regular bowel movement."

  2. Steve Bishop commented on Facebook:

    by the way pure coincidence this but... Den made me porridge yesterday ... same as you not had it since a kid... and same result (though I had it with rhubarb and ginger jam), so Den is doing so again today. Yummy

    Den's having hers with "Scrumpy marmalade"... she has run out of her Strawberry and Cointreau jam

  3. I remember getting a white plastic bust of The Duke of Marlborough in Corn Flakes. May have been Lords and Ladies or could have been with the Kings and Queens you spoke of. They looked ripe for painting in a lifelike fashion but it never happened. There was also a series of Dr Who cardboard characters on which you could fold the bottoms to have them stand up and make displays. Oh, and not forgetting the Aristocats in Spoon Size Shreddies (it may have been another cereal but that is how I remember it). Wheetabix was only limited to cardboard gifts given that space was almost fully accounted for. Why don't they create gifts for us more mature children? I'm sure we could be very easily swayed if offered the right prize.

  4. Sugar Smacks were scrummy.


  5. We had variety packs as a rare treat. There was always a fight over who got first choice. I think the brown wormy ones were All-Bran. Special K were like small, tasteless, light-brown cornflakes.
    I have porridge every morning- its good for cholesterol & very warming in this winter weather.

  6. I have porridge every morning all year round unless I am away - Premier Inn sometimes does a good one but not all their branches are consistent in the making of it.

    Like you, I grew up on Ready Brek - loved all the different flavours. I came to love porridge in late adulthood.

    We weren't allowed much of a cereal selction when I was a child - mainly cornflakes, weetabix, sugar puffs.

  7. Al Spence e-mailed:

    Let's get something absolutely straight here right now. Porridge is horrible, god only knows what it is like with the other great 'good for you' con of the last twenty odd years or so. That combo must be from the very bowls of hell. Leave it for the Bee's to drown in. I don't wish to come across as a breakfast cereal terrorist but the only acceptable cereals are Rice Crispys and normal straight forward Corn Flakes 'OK' is that clear!
    No such thing as fond memory's about bowl graters like Wheetabix or sphincter destroyers like Brand Flakes.
    Great if you are about to annex the Rhine Land, but not for a relaxing Saturday morning British breakfast.
    You have managed to touch my digestive system with your nostalgic, meandering trip down the lower bowl at breakfast time.