Grape Nuts: Because Your Colon Is a Sissy

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Grape Nuts--favorite cereal of narcoleptic Victorian bankers.
Cereal Philanderer is a weekly feature in which Jason Sheehan talks about cereal more than he probably should.

Cereal du jour: Grape Nuts, because who doesn't love gravel for breakfast?

History: Grape Nuts is a national treasure. One of the oldest cereals still being sold, it was "invented" by C.W. Post himself back in 1897. The fact that C.W. Post was totally insane and created the stuff mostly as a way to win his long-standing blood-feud with Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his enema-loving forces of cultish colon-worshippers notwithstanding, Grape Nuts possesses none of the near-magical powers that Post attributed to it. At various times he claimed it could cure alcoholism, nourish the brain with vital phosphates, rejuvenate the nerves, exercise the teeth and gums (which I guess was probably true), provide grit to those born without, energize the body with potash, prevent headaches, cure stomach flu, and cause women to instantly drop several dress sizes because of its miraculous proteins. The stuff was hokum way back when old C.W. was still hawking Postum Cereal Beverage and Elijah's Manna (a rip of Kellogg's Corn Flakes), and it remains hokum today. Rumors say that Post was actually trying to develop a new, metal-free shotgun pellet for the Army when he accidentally stumbled upon the formula for Grape Nuts, and nothing about the recipe has changed since that fateful day.

OK, so that's not true. Post really was trying to make a breakfast cereal. But to my mind, the fact that the creation of Grape Nuts was actually deliberate rather than an accidental mishap just goes to prove that Post really was bonkers.

He was also one of the richest men in history, tried to start a Utopian community on 200,000 acres in Garza County, Texas (which he named Post, Texas, after himself), and eventually shot himself in the head because he thought he had stomach cancer--the pistol apparently being easier to get than a proper diagnosis.

The Box: Grape Nuts does nothing to hide its pellet-y nature. It doesn't jazz things up with marshmallows or cartoon characters. On the box is a picture of exactly what you're going to get: a fistful of rabbit food masquerading as a cereal. No one can claim they were duped by Post into buying something they didn't really want and, honestly, I have to respect the company for that. There is something vaguely noble about being so up-front about the awfulness of the product you're selling.

The Product: Today, the cereal is made from whole wheat and barley. Back in the day, the cereal was made from just plain wheat and barley. Post's original process involved making the grains into a batter, baking it in sheets, and then having circus strongmen dressed in lion skins break up the sheets using 500-lb. weights, but when the strongmen began to demand a mustache-wax allotment as part of their pay, Post fired them all and replaced them with 10,000 lonely housewives who would spend all day running wheat-and-barley nuggets through 10,000 coffee grinders in order to attain the perfect Grape Nut shape.

Unbelievably, Grape Nuts has always been a fairly popular cereal. It has been a staple of polar explorers and jungle mercenaries, has been served to Boy Scouts at camp and convicts in prison and sailors long at sea. Basically, anywhere in the world where the choice is to eat Grape Nuts or starve to death, Grape Nuts is the most popular cereal there is.

If you're interested, it tastes like eating hamster pellets, only less grassy. Like chewing buckshot made of wood. There is a vague sweetness, but that might just be the body's desperate attempt to make the experience more palatable--like people who see a tunnel of white light and angels and a thousand dead grandmas as they near death. It hurts the teeth and is wholly unsatisfying, but leaves the lower digestive machinery as clean and gleaming as the exhaust system of a new car just rolling off the assembly line.

Best Feature: A hundred years of totally crazy-pants advertising touting its snake-oil charms. Acts like a gritty, wheat-based colonic in a box. Can be used in place of gravel as a landscaping element. You'll thank God you brought some along if you find yourself stuck at the North Pole and have already eaten all the penguins.

Worst Feature: The taste, the texture, the consistency, and the smell--which personally reminds me of all those hippie-run health-food stores that used to be around before Whole Foods ran them all out of business.

Fun Fact: Grape Nuts contains neither grapes nor nuts--another argument for the full-blown delusional nature of C.W. Post himself.

Is It Better or Worse Than Apple Jacks?: Worse. So much worse. I like my breakfasts to be like a celebration of having not been eaten by zombies in my sleep, not to feel like punishment for waking up alive.

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