The idea of the “frivolous conversation about everyday subjects”, experienced by all and popularized by sitcoms, remains one of the few ways in which we can connect with new acquaintances and sometimes complete strangers without being invasive or sketchy. Just yesterday, I briefly discussed Cheetos and dental hygiene with the lady next to me in line at the pizza parlor. Several months back, it was carbonated drinks with Ingrid the Shaw’s Cashier. Last week, the pièce de résistance was an interchange at length over bagels and cake on the subject of breakfast food, with cereal (specifically cold and served with milk) as the centerpiece.
The main contention of my argument is, simply, that the toroidal cereal shape, better known as the “loop” or “O,” is the ideal shape for cold cereal. Obviously, such a highly controversial statement will not go unchallenged, and bears justifying. On one end of the spectrum, we have the spherical “puff,” while on the other, we have the random 2-D surface, the “flake.”
Momentarily setting aside Mini-Wheat and Honeycomb-shaped aberrations as well as other factors such as marshmallows or dried fruit, my “research” (anecdotal experience) shows that the puff (having the smallest surface area-to-volume ratio) absorbs milk the slowest. Consequently, if I’m in a hurry to get out the door in the morning, biting into a recently-soaked puff encounters a hard, scratchy core that tears up my gums rather painfully and impacts my entire day. Puffs also have the distinction of being perhaps the most dangerous cereal for a toddler to have stuck up his/her nose, so much so that an “Everybody Loves Raymond” episode makes mention of the ailment and its remedy, the “Crunch and Blow.”
Flakes, on the other hand, soak up milk far too quickly and are generally soggy by the time I get to the bottom of the bowl, no matter how quickly I eat. A further inconvenience is that due to their flat shape, flakes tend to spatter poured milk out of the bowl and all over anything that happens to be on the table — a nearby problem set, for example. (Whether cereal or milk goes into the bowl first is, as far as I’m concerned, not up for debate. Milk first? Breakfast heresy.) Yes, careful pouring down the side of the bowl can alleviate spattering, much as careful pouring down the side of a cup can prevent soda from foaming over, but then again, most of the time you’re lucky to be even eating breakfast to begin with, let alone taking your sweet time.
Which brings us, at last, to the loop. I haven’t crunched the numbers on its surface area-volume ratio, either for Froot Loop-sized or Cheerio-sized pieces, but it doesn’t take too large a sample size to realize that loops are superior. They hold milk well due to the center hole, but also maintain a more broadly-distributed crunchy center than a puff that ensures variety of texture without hurting your gums. I’ve also found that at typical rates of consumption, a reasonable level of crunchiness is maintained until the end of the bowl. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve repoured into half a bowl of milk with loops. Beautiful, beautiful loops.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I should probably go eat now. Somewhat ironically, I’ve spent so much time this morning thinking and writing about breakfast that I’ve forgotten to stop and eat it. Stay tuned next week, as the breakfast-based saga continues.