Have you heard of a breakfast cereal called Grape-Nuts? Ever eaten it? Whether you have or not, there is a story about this cold cereal that will warm you right up!
As kids growing up, the majority of our breakfasts involved eating cold cereals (the unceremonious act of pouring cold milk over dried cereal). Of these, we were rarely allowed the unspoken right that should be given to all children everywhere: The right to consume “sugar cereals”. These consisted of cereals like Frosted Flakes, Honeycomb, Fruit Loops and Sugar Corn Pops. That, of course, meant that the “healthy cereals” like Cheerios, Mini-Wheats and Grape-Nuts were always in the cupboard. Most people are familiar with Cheerios and Mini-Wheats but maybe not so much with Grape-Nuts. Grape-Nuts is a wheat-and-barley cereal that is shaped into very small pieces that look like grape seeds and comes in a fairly small box. A little goes a long way (something important to note for later).
If you’ve been with me any length of time, you’ve already become familiar with Rick. If you haven’t, you really should. It would be worth your time and laughter to do so. He was my best friend in high school and we are still in contact after all these years. Why am I suddenly telling you about him instead of cereal? Well…..
As you may know from previous stories, our family cabin is on Carp Lake in northern Michigan. (If you haven’t been able to visit northern Michigan, you really need to go! It’s absolutely beautiful up there.) We usually went up to the cabin twice during the summer months. Now, it just so happens that it was these family trips to the cabin that provided a special privilege: My brother and I were each allowed to pick out our very own box of whatever sugar cereal we wanted. It was like Christmas in July! We’d spend the whole time Mom was shopping in the grocery store picking out which two cereals we were going to pillage. And never did we pick out the same one! No sir, we knew better than that. If we each got a different one, we both knew that we were guaranteed at least one bowl of each other’s cereal to be able to “taste test” and enjoy our spoils together.
Well, it was on one of these trips to the cabin that I was able to bring Rick with us. We shared our treasured cereals with him, but Mom had also brought along the healthy choices. On this trip, that meant Grape-Nuts and Cheerios. My brother and I weren’t touching either one, but Rick had never had Grape-Nuts before. On one particular morning, he decided to try them.
(You should know that the go-to bowls for cereal at the cabin were these old porcelain bowls that were deep enough to house a generous amount of whatever you poured into them. You should also know that it was an unspoken rule in our household that whatever you serve yourself, you eat.)
My Dad was sitting in the cabin’s kitchen with us as Rick began to pour himself a big bowl of these cute little nuggets of goodness. We all watched as Rick filled his bowl well over half-way with Grape-Nuts. The more he poured, the bigger my eyes got. Then Dad spoke up and told him that he wouldn’t need that much cereal and really ought to pour some back into the box. There was a great camaraderie between Rick and my Dad. But that didn’t stop Rick from insisting that he was fine and could easily polish off this bowl of Grape-Nuts. My Dad then made sure that Rick was aware of our “You pour/You eat” policy and promptly bet him that he couldn’t finish the bowl. And so it begins…..
My brother and I ate our sugared treasures as we watched Rick dig into his bowl of Grape-Nuts spoonful after spoonful. As he did so, he would have to periodically pour more milk into the cereal. He was discovering that those little nuggets of goodness had soaked up all the milk and were expanding into larger pebbles of sogginess. It was like they were multiplying. He wasn’t making any headway at all. In the meantime, we had all finished our breakfasts and were now contentedly sitting back and enjoying the scene that was playing out before us.
Eventually, Rick looked at the soggy brown nastiness that still remained in his bowl. He heaved a heavy sigh as he leaned back in his chair, his belly pooched out like a pregnant cow. His eyes were glazed over as he slurred through his speech that he couldn’t handle anymore Grape-Nuts. Dad had won the bet! I don’t remember what he had bet Rick–whatever it was, though, it was quickly forgotten in the “aftermirth” of watching Rick suffer through the rest of the day with a bloated belly and enough gas to light up the Carp Lake community for the next two years.
That Christmas, Dad found Rick a very touching gift. You know those huge family-sized boxes of Cheerios at the store? Sam’s Club had boxes of Grape-Nuts for sale that were only slightly smaller than that. Dad bought one just for Rick to call his own. I don’t know that Rick saw the same thoughtfulness in the gift that Dad did. I know he didn’t the following Christmas when I got him the same gift.
Some people just don’t appreciate meaningful things….