I’ve written here about my formative obsession with American breakfast cereal, and though I’ve since grown into more mature tastes, there’s still one time of the year when I drop everything for the sake of my inner child.
It helps that when Halloween invades the promotional aisles of supermarkets throughout the nation, General Mills tips an unholy grail of sugary breakfast into the cereal displays. Its line of Monster Cereals, born in 1971 with the release of Count Chocula, linked the joys of candy-like junk food to the masquerade of fortified factory food with a clarity that remain unrivaled until the emergence of Cookie Crisp six years later.
The Count – hardly as revolutionary as breakfast cereal’s seminal, market-moving mascots – represents just one peak following the industry’s decision to target children during the 1940s and 1950s. Still, he stands at one Hell of a peak: I remember looking up at the Count Chocula box as a kid, marveling at the fact that any other cereal featuring chocolate or marshmallows could compete with the vampire who seduced his victims with the promise of both. My mom, who regularly brought home boxes of Cocoa Pebbles and Lucky Charms at my behest, drew the line at a cereal that bridged the heuristic gap between the two.
Surprisingly, Count Chocula, available year-round, doesn’t deliver in the department of decadence. The familiar flavor of puffed corn is its dominant characteristic, with a light hue of artificial chocolate tacked onto the tongue in a way that lacks the richness of Cocoa Pebbles or the directness of Cocoa Puffs. I recall that one of my favorite things about this cereal at age seventeen was that its marshmallows had a distinctly chocolaty tinge, but the Count’s “spooky-fun marshmallows” are now little more than sugary filler. If my annual box of the stuff is any indication, the serious pursuit of chocolate is down for the Count. Am I really writing this paragraph?
At least one demented cereal lover would agree the most interesting member of this family has managed to keep his unique flavor profile over the years. Count Chocula may lack a chocolate blood stream, and Franken Berry may be no better than any of his fake fruit competitors in the aisle; Boo Berry, however, remains the only American breakfast cereal entirely devoted to the taste of artificial blueberry. Difficult to obtain once All Hallow’s Eve has passed, this sweetened seasonal specter eclipses the Count by force of novelty alone.
I don’t mean to say that Boo Berry stands a chance against Berry Berry Kix, but thanks to its blueberry-flavored marshmallows and the classic flavor of “purple,” it’s certainly more memorable than the rest of the Monster Cereals. As far as perversions of wholesome values go, I can think of far less charming reasons to look forward to October.
Happy Halloween, everybody!