Man pens book: 'The Great American Cereal Book: How Breakfast Got Its Crunch'Ask Marty Gitlin to name his favorite cereal, and rest assured the answer he provides comes from years of thorough research that began when he just 8 years old.
By: Lisa Abraham Akron Beacon Journal (MCT), INFORUM
Ask Marty Gitlin to name his favorite cereal, and rest assured the answer he provides comes from years of thorough research that began when he just 8 years old.
His passion for breakfast cereal goes back nearly 50 years.
Gitlin was growing up in South Euclid, Ohio, when he decided it was imperative for him to try at least one bowl of every new breakfast cereal that hit the market. Lured by Saturday morning commercials and a host of characters from Tony the Tiger to Cap’n Crunch, and with the help of a really permissive mother, he was able to do just that.
“I told my mother and she was cool about it. She just did it. I was a goofy 8-year-old kid,” Gitlin recalls.
Now, the 55-year-old North Olmsted, Ohio, resident has his mother to thank for the book he has written, “The Great American Cereal Book: How Breakfast Got Its Crunch” ($19.95 hardcover, Abrams Image).
Like all adventures, Gitlin’s cereal quest was not without its rough patches. His taste buds were put to the test in 1965 when a new banana-flavored cereal called Wackies came on the market. He insisted on trying it, even though he didn’t like banana flavor. (The cereal was essentially banana-flavored Lucky Charms.)
He kept up his tasting well into the 1970s, but became disillusioned when so many of his sugary favorites began to be replaced by a granola and other whole grains.
Over the years, this freelance writer chewed on the idea of a book about cereal. “The thing that kind of inspired me, everything about cereal is fun. Eating cereal is fun. Reading cereal boxes is fun. The cereal characters are fun,” he said.
The book was released in February and has been enthusiastically received by cereal lovers across America. It provides a colorful trip to the past when the likes of King Vitamin, Kaboom and Super Sugar Crisp ruled our breakfast tables. Each page is a kitschy slice of American history as told through our breakfast cereal. It’s no wonder the book has spent seven weeks in the No. 1 spot on Amazon.com’s Americana books category.
Written with the help of researcher Topher Ellis, the book is, at its heart, an encyclopedia, Gitlin says.
He tracked down cereal box collectors from Minnesota to New Hampshire and spent hours poring over their collections and having the boxes photographed. Their colorful images grace the 368 pages of the book, and provide a wonderful trip down memory lane.
Each cereal is given two dates: “first poured” and “milked until,” and includes a description of the cereal, its slogan and spokes-character.
Gitlin allowed me to drain his bowl with a few questions:
Q What’s your favorite cereal?
A “Fruit Loops. Lucky Charms is a close second.”
Q Is there some vault where you can still find old cereals?
A “No, when they’re gone they’re gone, except in cases like Franken Berry and Count Chocula, which they bring back seasonally.”
Q Quisp or Quake?
A “Quisp. Quisp is still around. Quake hasn’t been around for a long time. They were actually the same cereal, just a different shape. But Quisp’s character was the little alien with the propeller on his head. Quake was a miner. Quisp just completely blew Quake away. Quisp was way more popular and it shows you the power of marketing.”
Q Kellogg’s Corn Flakes or Post Toasties?
A “I liked Post Toasties. I was disappointed when they went off the market (in 2006).”
Q What’s your favorite Chex?
A “That’s a good one. I’d have to say Rice and Corn.”
Q You have to pick just one.
A “I’ll say Rice Chex then. They are good.”
Q Super Sugar Crisp or Sugar Smacks?
A “I like Sugar Crisp a little bit better than Sugar Smacks. Both were sweetened puffed wheat, but Sugar Crisp was darker and not as puffy.”
Q How come Sugar Pops are now called Corn Pops?
A “Everything ‘sugar’ now is something else. The sugar’s still in there. It’s just no longer in the name.”
Q Who is your favorite cereal character?
A “I’ve concluded that Tony the Tiger is my favorite. He came out in 1952. Kellogg’s actually created a competition between Tony the Tiger, Newt the Gnu, Elmo the Elephant and Katy the Kangaroo, and the competition was won by Tony the Tiger. It was a kids’ vote.”
Q If you could bring back one cereal that’s no longer around, what would it be?
A “Sugar Jets. They were made from 1953 to 1973 and they looked like airplanes. They were by General Mills. Puffa Puffa Rice was another one of my real favorites. It was really delicious and the box had the cereal coming out of a volcano.”