Wheaties: Breakfast of Losers

Breakfast historians will note that Jim Thorpe lived on a strict diet of bear's blood, root marm, gin, and Benzedrine. NOT Wheaties.
Cereal du Jour: Wheaties, the most All-American of All-American breakfast cereals.

History: Like so many good things (penicillin, Silly Putty, oral sex, time travel, the Dodge Dart), Wheaties was invented by mistake. Like Spiderman, it was created in a lab accident, following a spill of wheat-bran mixture onto a hot stove by some bran scientist working for the Washburn Crosby Company (later General Mills). The resultant mess would eventually become Wheaties, and the scientist responsible probably became some kind of superhero. But because this happened in 1922 (before the Golden Age of superheroes) in Minnesota (where no superheroes are ever from) and involved bran (rather than, say, radioactive isotopes or secret alien voodoo powder), no one ever heard from Bran Man again.

Still, the industrial accident did lead (eventually) to the creation of a wheat-and-bran flake cereal which, at first, was called Washburn's Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. When everyone involved agreed that this was too long a name to fit on a box, it was changed to Wheaties--the name chosen as part of a contest where employees got to try to name the dull, bland, cardboard-tasting flakes. Other runners-up in the naming contest included "Nutties," "Crackers," "Gold Medal Wheat Flakes" (guess who came up with that one?), "Crunch-O's," "Dr. McGillicuty's Olde-Tyme Regularity Flakes," "Ol' Crappies," "Elf Biscuits," and "Bill." Shortly after this contest was ended, marketing departments were invented and no one ever again had to name their cereal by employee contest.

The Box: Though Wheaties has long been associated with sports, its first link was actually to the jazz world, with the first Wheaties jingle being sung to the tune of "She's a Jazz Baby." It went:

"Have you tried Wheaties?

They're whole wheat with all of the bran.

Won't you try Wheaties?

They don't taste nearly as bad as you think they will."

This was a short-lived promotion, though. Mostly because Wheaties do, actually, taste just as bad as everyone thinks they will.

Nowadays, Wheaties is known as The Breakfast of Champions, and always has some kind of athlete on the box. Unfortunately, Wheaties are eaten primarily by health nuts, the constipated, desperate dieters and people who live in places where every other kind of cereal on the shelves has already been looted. Thus while Wheaties boxes have, in the past, featured the likes of Mary Lou Retton, Lee Trevino, Jesse Owens, and Michael Jordan, what they really should show is some weirdo in a hemp shirt with big, freaky eyebrows, a fat lady in sweatpants sitting on the couch and eating handfuls of Wheaties right out of the box (how meta . . . ), or the wretched survivors of some apocalyptic nightmare overjoyed at finding a whole shelf full of Wheaties untouched by the mutants and street gangs who ate all the Trix and Fruity Pebbles.

The Product: It tastes exactly how you'll think it tastes: like crunchy cardboard. Slightly nutty, if I'm being generous, but really just about as dull as a cereal can be.

Best Feature: Always there when you need it because no one eats it unless they have to.

Worst Feature: Tastes like Wheaties.

Weird Intersection With American Politics: Wheaties was more or less directly responsible for the presidency of Ronald Reagan. No, I'm not making that up.

Is It Better or Worse Than Apple Jacks?: Wheaties is the antithesis of Apple Jacks. Apple Jacks are so much better, contrasting the two is like comparing apples and toaster ovens.

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