Cereal killer

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.

The way we ate

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.