Lucky Charms: Get a Little Irish in Ya

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Cereal Philanderer is a weekly feature in which Jason Sheehan talks about cereal more than he probably should.

Cereal du jour: Lucky Charms, the most stereotyping and borderline racist of all magical marshmallow-based breakfast cereals

History: In the 1960's, with their economy in tatters and their police force exhausted by constant leprechaun attacks, Ireland was in a state of panic. Thankfully, a bunch of shiftless drunks my countrymen, out for a midnight stagger, happened upon a strange mound of colorful nuggets, hidden among the thistles by the side of the road outside the town of Ballincollig. Being hungry and having spent all their money on pints of Irish Awesome Juice, they of course proceeded to eat these unusual chunks of mystery fluff and were thrilled to find that the more they ate, the more appeared. Eventually, they found themselves so sated by these magical mystery marshmallows that they fell into a deep sleep . . . and were promptly set upon and devoured by wild leprechauns.

The next night, friends of these men went out looking to discover the fates of their companions. They, too, found piles of marshmallows by the side of the road, ate them, fell asleep, and were in turn eaten themselves.

Eventually, someone began to notice a startling lack of pints being bought in the Ballincollig area, and investigators from the Leprechaun Defense League were sent in. They were the first to discover the great Marshmallow Mines of Cork and came up with a plan to capture and enslave all the leprechauns in the area, making them work themselves to death in the mines, digging out delicious marshmallows for use in a breakfast cereal that would be marketed to young, heavy drinkers as the perfect meal to eat after a night spent tipping pints and punching strangers. Thus Lucky Charms was born. And Lucky, the leprechaun mascot, was created as a way to shame and humiliate all the other leprechauns who had brought Ireland to the brink of destruction and to remind them of the Irish victory in Ballincollig. Why do you think Lucky is always so worried about those kids being after his Lucky Charms?

OK, none of that is true. In truth, Lucky Charms was an austerity move by General Mills. Tasked to come up with a way to make a new cereal using existing supplies and manufacturing capacity, John Holahan (a cereal developer) decided that there was no better way to get kids to eat more cereal than to combine Cheerios and Brach's circus peanuts into one (arguable) meal.

The Box: Always features Lucky, the leprechaun mascot, and a whole lot of marshmallow bits. Because General Mills knows what people want in a nutritious, well-balanced breakfast: more marshmallows.

The Product: On the one hand, there are the "toasted oat-based pieces" which taste like compressed wood shavings glazed with confectioner's sugar when dry, and like chewing old cardboard when soaked in milk. Needless to say, they are not the draw of Lucky Charms.

On the other, there are marshmallows. LOTS of marshmallows, constituting more than 25% of the cereal's total volume. And while these "marshmallows" taste absolutely nothing like actual marshmallows, they are still a socially acceptable way to eat marshmallows for breakfast. So suck it, National Nutrition Council!

The marshmallows in Lucky Charms are oddly crisp, a feature that can be intensely disturbing if you think about it too much, so just don't. They are made of sugar, more sugar, earwig honey, leprechaun tears, high-fructose corn syrup, peat, clover meal, and sugar. In order to keep them from going completely soggy the minute they are touched by milk, each marshmallow is also coated in a thick glaze of sugar, with a little sugar added for flavor.

Lucky Charms are best enjoyed either early in the morning or very late at night, after a few pops, just when the alcohol has gotten you feeling maudlin and nostalgic for your lost childhood. Milk is the ideal lubricant, but in an emergency a good stout or porter will also work. Lucky Charms mixed with whiskey is colloquially known as "Irish Stew." Or maybe that's just something I made up.

Best Feature: Lots of marshmallows in shapes and colors that mimic high-grade hallucinations.

Worst Feature: Everything about it that isn't a marshmallow. Also may inspire haunting racial memories of the leprechaun genocide.

Weird and Pointless Fact: The marshmallow pieces in Lucky Charms actually have a technical name. They are called "marbits."

Is It Better or Worse Than Apple Jacks?: Lucky Charms are the Alpha to Apple Jacks' Omega--a wholly and completely different thing, existing in diametric opposition to Apple Jacks on the spectrum of good and bad--and therefore impossible to classify, for who can say where the worst thing in the world begins to wrap around and become good once more?

Actually, that's just a bunch of crap. Apple Jacks are better. But if you find yourself suffering from a massive marbit deficiency, Lucky Charms is the quickest and easiest way to get your recommended daily allowance of marshmallows.

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