Breakfast was our first sit-down meal of the day for my family. I am not sure it still commands such attention today in most people’s busy lives. I would venture that many kids are now sent off to school with none, or something that can be eaten on the run or picked up at the nearby convenient store. When eaten at the table, eggs and crispy bacon is the favorite breakfast of many, mine has always been old-fashioned oatmeal. Malt-O-Meal was a close second. Whatever yours may be, we rarely think of the cereal we eat as anything special.
Those who may have observed the local behavior here over the years may have noticed that Fredericksburg was divided on many fronts. There were initially only two kinds of churches—Catholic and Lutheran. We had two newspapers – there were those who read only the Fredericksburg Standard, and those who read only the Radio Post. The Catholics were generally buried by Schaetter’s Funeral Home and Protestants by Beckmann’s Funeral Home. Families generally drove automobiles and pickups manufactured either by Ford, Chrysler, or General Motors. Of course, there were exceptions among all of these, but remaining loyal to certain brands was far more important than it is now.
Likewise, families were generally also either divided by those who purchased Post cereal products, General Mills, or those that bought products only made by Kellogg’s. In the Wieser household, we ate only products manufactured by Post and General Mills. My mother simply refused to buy cereals made by Kellogg’s – no Quaker Puffed Oats no matter how much I might have asked. Wheaties were my family’s cereal of choice, and, in way, I was glad.
I liked Wheaties, and for a while their box had a backside that featured various American frontier village buildings which could be cut out. Of course, I was supposed to wait until a box was empty, but never did. If the cereal manufacturer had not glued the inside sack to the box, it would have been a lot easier to cut away that box’s western house, saloon, or whatever. (These could then be folded together and glued to form a building.) Invariably, it was unavoidable to puncture the inner lining and cereal spilled out. However, I eventually had a nice frontier village, complete with a primitive fort that gave me many hours of pleasure. And, of course, making certain my mom bought the next box with a different cutout.
For those of us who grew up in the 1950s we enjoyed better and more nutritious cereals than today – they hadn’t created all of those fun, sugary kinds yet. We can thank the Kellogg brothers, John Harvey and Will Keith, for changing the way Americans ate their breakfast. They were Seventh-day Adventists, which proclaimed healthy living and a nutritious vegetable- and grain-based diet. One day, the two brothers were in the process of cooking some wheat for making a type of granola. Called away, the wheat was left cooking and hardened. Nevertheless, they fed it through their rollers anyway, and surprisingly, the product was flattened into thin flakes. They were persuaded to serve the food in its flaked forms and requests immediately soared.
Although Kellogg’s was first, others soon imitated the product. Its share of the U.S. market fell to less than 37% by 1983. Wall Street considered Kellogg’s a company that was past its prime prompting the company to target not children, but the 80 million baby boomers (those aged 25 to 49). Sales grew three times faster than the average grocery category. Kellogg’s was here to stay, netting about 1.3 billion US dollars annually – now that’s big business.
Perhaps, looking forward to eating a bowl of cereal is not among your favorites, but it is still among mine. I heap a lot of sugar over it and enjoy my cereal with whole milk— I even add some whole cream, to boot. And I do not care if most of those flakes become soft and chewy because to me, they are always good to the last spoon full. That’s not the only way to eat cereal though. Even Lady Bird Johnson weighed in on her favorite cereal using Wheaties in a recipe in a 1965 cookie recipe booklet.
Lady Bird’s Wheaties Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups shredded coconut
2 cups Wheaties
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Lightly grease cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy.
Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well blended.
Stir in the coconut.
Stir in the flour mixture until well blended.
Stir in the Wheaties, mixing just until blended.
Roll the dough into walnut size balls.
Space them at least 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
Bake one cookie sheet at a time in the center of the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove and allow to cool for a minute before transferring them to a wire rack.
Repeat with the remaining dough, being sure to allow cookie sheets to cool completely, or use a different one.