I have a problem with cereal. It isn’t deep-rooted or life altering, but it plagues some of my mornings when the craving for cereal appears and I have to obey its whims. My problem is simple yet remains unresolved: I inhale the contents of my bowl instead of slowly enjoying each bite or contemplating each spoonful the way they do on tv.
I didn’t grow up with boxes of cereal lined up in our pantry the way I saw they did on American shows, in fact I rarely had time for a proper breakfast before the school bus arrived! Every morning, I’d get a steaming cup of hot chocolate I barely managed to finish and ended up feeling nauseated the whole way up to school – the memory still haunts me today. However, on weekends, breakfast was a thing. I got to eat properly in the morning, to enjoy a labneh sandwich or anything I didn’t get on weekdays, and sometimes that included cornflakes. My favourite were Frosted Flakes and Golden Grahams -simple things always attracted me – except most of the time I ate them dry due to my previous (understandable) aversion to hot chocolate and the likes. It was only years later that I learnt to appreciate pouring milk onto my cereal and waiting the right amount of time before spooning out a tablespoon. It was an enchanting sensation, the half-drenched flakes, the sweetened milk, the slight crunch that dissipated inside my mouth as it all made its way around, caressing my taste buds. It was good, but it never lasted long enough; after the first few tablespoonfuls, the remnants of my bowl suffered from inevitable sogginess losing the crisp that characterized it so well. So in order to avoid reaching that point, I took the habit of swallowing the contents of my delightful bowl too rapidly, enjoying the textures and flavours at their peak, hence suffering how short-lived that joy was. At one point, I even tried adding the cereal in stages, but ended up with my milk rising in sweetness with each handful I added, the taste changing as my breakfast progressed.
I have a dream, to savour my cereal without rushing through, to enjoy each flake’s subtleties knowing the next will be its twin, half-way between crunchy and moist, enjoying the pool of invariably sweetened milk it’s happily soaked in.
I was born in 1990. I can therefore claim it as my decade, a pure 90s child, whatever that’s supposed to mean. The thing is, I’m a 90s kid with enough nostalgia to feel like a 70s, 50s and 20s kid as well. I belong to each a little, dusted with grunge, fed rock n roll, sparkling in a beaded flapper dress as Bing Crosby croons the night away from an old turntable. That sentiment however doesn’t seem to fit the age I’m living in. My teens and adulthood happen to coincide with the emergence of the tech generation, and I’m often expected to follow the movement, belong to this generation Y I do not understand.
If I accepted the truths my mind is flooded with, I’d be screaming “when I was your age” sentences at people all day long, because in my head – and heart – I come from a different time. I come from a time where the concept of making money by sharing your life as a couple was inconceivable. I come from an epoch where school reunions were the place to rediscover what our classmates have become instead of nodding at them as they tell us things we already know thanks to social media. I belong to a time where love was an end in itself, not a means to an end or a way to prove to the world that picture perfect exists.
As I was rewatching a show from my childhood, I realized I grew up dreaming of life like it was presented in movies in the past: knocking on your neighbour’s door for eggs or sugar or greeting newcomers with pie, taking a roadtrip for the sake of it instead of editing each moment into a like-worthy post, settling in a little town where everybody knows your name and not feeling like the world is surpassing the dose of ambition you need.
I never felt like I belonged to this generation of social overachievers, bundling the simple joys of life with empty expectations and shallow experiences. It always feels as though everyone is trying so hard to compensate for such poor self esteem the internet has to witness unending efforts to prove things nobody should believe in.
It was 8:47 a.m and I was on my way to work, reluctant, forcefully yanked out of bed by my alarm. I was riding the metro, another morose face in the crowd, when a mother with her two little girls stepped into the wagon I was planning my temporary blue collar life’s demise in. Plunging her hand in her bag, she handed her daughters one biscuit each. The eldest started eating, looking at the half asleep passengers around her, curious, hungry, a possessor of a slight attention deficit disorder like most children her age. Her sister, however, awoke my attention still dormant till then. She was staring attentively at her biscuit, almost too intensely. She had bitten off the four protruding edges and was now studying where to bite next, weighing pros, cons and colour gradients. The sight of her amused me as I always ate my biscuits in the same fashion, working my way to the best part, progressively eliminating the least interesting bits, bite by bite, until my favourite part presented itself to end my biscuit experience.
Most people after a certain age, just like this girl’s sister, start eating to satisfy an urge, their hunger or just to fill a void, forgetting to focus on every detail of what’s in their hands or laid in front of them. Some, myself included, keep that somewhat childlike pursuit of a taste chronology making the story culminate to the most thrilling chapter. I still bite off the edges first, circling around the center, steering away from the chocolate morsels teasing relentlessly but unsuccessfully, keeping the best for last while understanding every bite as it shares its secrets and complex layers with my palate and tongue. It always seemed to me as though food conversed with me, every meal being a reunion with an old friend bearing new stories for me to enjoy, another kind of imaginary friend who, more often than not, spoke in monologues, riveting, silencing, appeasing in their short-lived flow.