road test: breakfast cereals

by james colley and caro cooper, illustrations by ngaio parr

In the latest issue of frankie, James Colley and Caro Cooper revisit some classic breakfast cereals.

road test frankie 91 breakfast cereals

COCO POPS – Oh, baby. Seeing the bright yellow Coco Pops box transports me back to the first days of school camp, and the rush of freedom that comes with knowing your sugar levels won’t be properly monitored. The English language can only go so far towards explaining the sensory thrill that is eating Coco Pops, but let me be the first to try: it’s just like a chocolate milkshake, only crunchy. Everything about this cereal screams high-octane rush. It’s breakfast fun. It’s a sweet treat for you, the special darling of the morning. Of course, then comes the crash. An existential crisis awaits any adult attempting to enjoy a bowl of these brown, crunchy bubbles. It’s just a matter of time before your psyche rebels and punctuates every bite with a wail: “You’re almost 30. You’re almost 30!” While the sugary hit is a thrill, waking up three days later in an abandoned truck stop somewhere near the South Australian border is not. JC

CORN FLAKES – So many Aussie kids grew up on Corn Flakes, but we grew up calling those pellets of kelp that wash onto the beach after heavy rainfall ‘corn flakes’, as well. These taste way better than the kelp ones do. I’m surprised how much I enjoyed this cereal on a revisit, especially because it tastes like absolutely nothing. It’s just crunchy milk. I kind of thought it would be disappointing in the way most things from your youth are when you return to them (aside from E.T., which stands up), but they’re not. The Corn Flakes aren’t sweet or packed with bran – they’re just an appealing, corny blank canvas. The texture of well-soaked Corn Flakes can divide families, but most families will divide anyway, whether Corn Flakes come into it or not. I like the crunch of raw or recently drowned flakes, but am not too proud to tuck into some sloppy, soppy flakes either. I’ll take it all. CC

FRUIT LOOPS – I’m ashamed when I pull the Froot Loops box off the shelf, and even more so when I carry it home. It’s an intensified version of the archaic shame I feel carrying a 24-pack of toilet rolls under my arm. I know Froot Loops are bad; everyone looking at me knows they’re bad (surely people were looking at me, right?). I was never allowed these as a kid. My hippie parents raised us on Nuttelex and rye bread, and I always felt like I’d missed out. I hadn’t. My first spoonful is like being beaten in the mouth by a sugary rainbow. My teeth are disintegrating, I’m sure of it. The milk tastes like that really sweet laxative that makes your lips curl in disgust. When I try to eat some loops dry, the flavour is less intense, but I’ll probably just burn the evidence I ever bought these and visit my dentist on Monday. CC

road test frankie 91 breakfast cereals 2

SULTANA BRAN – The bran is a healthy and sensible adult breakfast decision; the sultanas are a wild ride of flavour where anything is possible. Combined, this cereal is the embodiment of pathetic rebellion. It’s a prefect taking one puff of a cigarette before collapsing into a coughing fit as the thrill of breaking the rules rushes over them. The box reinforces this with a funky design describing a hip new app you can use to… check your gut fibre levels. But while there’s not a lot of excitement to Sultana Bran, maybe breakfast excitement isn’t what you need right now. This is the kind of wholesome cereal that would help your nan carry her shopping if she were struggling in the rain. Can you say that of all breakfast cereals? Sadly, no. There are many that would happily leave your nan to drown. For legal reasons, I cannot name them, but you know the ones I mean. JC

WEET-BIX – Primary school camp, here we come! There’s nothing quite like Weet-Bix with a side of weak cordial to give me camp flashbacks. Bulk boxes of Weet-Bix, big vats of milk and that kid who always dressed in military fatigues and bullied me relentlessly. Weet-Bix brings it all back. I drop one of the bricks of compressed wheat into a bowl and the crunchy sound is so familiar. For the full classic experience, I slice some banana on top. The rounds of banana look like funnels on a ship; I pour on some milk and watch as the Weet-Bix bloats like a wreck at the bottom of the ocean. I’m a fan of soggy Weet-Bix, so I wait for it to sponge up all the milk, then destroy it with my spoon like some Cold War missile. Delicious and violent. The next day, I’m even more violent trying to scrub the Weet-Bix cement off my bowl. CC

NUTRI-GRAIN – This is a cereal that posts photos from Tough Mudder every week, using physical strength as a way to detach from its emotional issues. You can hear the famous Nutri-Grain roar with every bite, as if the cereal is challenging you to chew harder, eat faster, swallow the damn spoon. Nutri-Grain is not a cereal that’s trying to prove its worth to you. If anything, it’s the other way around. If they could, I’m sure the creators of Nutri-Grain would add massive dumbbells to every box, so only those deemed worthy could pick up the cereal and put it in a shopping basket. As for taste, it’s fine. A little dreary. Perhaps the bar was set too high with the branding. Anything short of a flavour punch in the throat just wouldn’t live up to the promise of a Nutri-Grain box. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to pound on the inside of my pantry cupboard until the cereal shows pity on me and finally opens the door. JC

For even more classic cereal reviews, pick up a copy of frankie issue 91. Nab it online or find your closest stockist here

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