Frosted Flakes: Like Corn Flakes for Tigers

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

Cereal du Jour: Frosted Flakes, the cooler cousin of Corn Flakes and granddaddy of sugar-frosted breakfast cereals.

History: The 1950's were a great time to be a cereal magnate. It was a boom time. Everyone who wanted them was being given tract houses, station wagons, and martini shakers by the President of the United States just so we'd look good to all the Russian spies living among us. People had money. They had security. And they all had children who needed to start their days with a huge jolt of sugar just to be able to get in all the apple-picking, book-learning, hula-hooping, and hiding-under-their-desks-as-practice-for-impending-nuclear-destruction that they had to get done in a day.

In the 1950's no one knew sugar was bad for them. Everyone believed that if a food came in a can or a box, it must be good and wholesome and futuristic--full of ions and distillates and vitamin Q and whatever other wonders had lately been discovered by food chemists. And all a gigantic breakfast-cereal conglomerate had to do to ensure enormous profits was to take an already existing cereal that was not coated in sugar, and coat it in sugar. It truly was a Golden Age.

Frosted Flakes were first introduced to the public in 1952 and were an instant success, even though they were nothing more than run-of-the-mill Corn Flakes coated with sugar. Or actually, they were probably an instant success because they were nothing more than run-of-the-mill Corn Flakes coated with sugar. Because, really . . . you know the only thing that makes a bowl of Corn Flakes palatable? Heaping on the sugar. So all the Kellogg company was doing was adding the sugar for you. Wasn't that nice of them?

From the very beginning, Tony the Tiger has been the mascot of Frosted Flakes, always insisting that "They're gr-r-reat!" And we believed him because he's a tiger and tigers always tell the truth. Briefly, Frosted Flakes had another mascot, Katy the Kangaroo, but that was short-lived. For one, the idea of a kangaroo eating Frosted Flakes is just ridiculous. Also, everyone knows that kangaroos are filthy liars.

The Box: Every box--every single box, from the first box to the last--has featured Tony in his jaunty red ascot. Why? Because all tigers wear ascots. It's how they show they are civilized and won't immediately eat all children they come in contact with. If you see a tiger walking down the street with an ascot on, it is perfectly safe to approach him, pull on his tail, ride on his back, or demand that he say "They're gr-r-reat!" about anything from local Tea Party politicians to your balls, and then record him doing so with your camera phone and post it on YouTube. If you ever come across a tiger without an ascot, though? Just run.

Tony's ascot used to have his name on it (obviously so he wouldn't lose it when partying with all the other ascotted tigers at country clubs, poetry readings, and hardcore leather bars), but in recent years it has become so iconic that the name is no longer necessary. No one is going to take Tony's ascot away.

The Product: Frosted Flakes is as simple a breakfast product as can be. It is nothing more than flakes of corn, frosted with crunchy white sugar. There are no marshmallows, no clever shapes, no different kinds of grain. Kellogg tried to market Tony's Cinnamon Krunchers in 2003, but they failed and were pulled from the market in 2007. There were also attempts made to sell Frosted Flakes with 1/3 less sugar, Frosted Flakes made with honey, and pink Frosted Flakes, but have you ever seen any of them in the stores? No? Yeah, that's because you can't improve on perfection.

Frosted Flakes all by themselves are good. In milk, they retain their crunch for a reasonable amount of time before turning into a kind of gruel that still tastes pretty good because of all the sugar dissolved into the milk--especially when improved by the addition of a second shot of fresh cereal in the bowl. There is a purity to a bowl of Frosted Flakes that is missing from so many other cereals these days--an uncomplicated simplicity and changeless respect for history--making Frosted Flakes the Chez Panisse of breakfast cereals.

The sweet and sugary-frosted Chez Panisse . . .

Best Feature: Frosted Flakes is cereal the way cereal was meant to be--simple and without affectation. Also, it's a boon for ascot makers, who've had it hard these past few decades.

Worst Feature: Frosted Flakes doesn't really have a worst feature. Being so simple, there's not really anything not to like.

Interesting fact #1: The full and proper name of the cereal is Kellogg's Sugar Frosted Flakes of Corn, but no one calls it that because that name is stupid.

Interesting fact #2: The name of the guy who used to do the voice for Tony the Tiger was Thurl Ravenscroft, which is just an awesome name. If I ever have a son who looks to be on the path toward becoming a mad scientist, I will change his name to Thurl Ravenscroft because that's the kind of name a man should have when threatening to release his army of atomic super-sharks on the world if he isn't paid $10 billion dollars in gold Krugerrands.

I guess it's also an OK name for someone who does the voice of a cartoon tiger.

Is It Better or Worse Than Apple Jacks?: Worse, but not by much. If faced with a choice between buying a box of Frosted Flakes and a box of Apple Jacks, I will almost always go for the Jacks. But if some sort of calamity were to occur in the Jack-producing regions of America and suddenly Frosted Flakes were all that was left on the shelves, I wouldn't exactly go hungry.

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