Tag Archives: breakfast

Lame Adventure 268: I Blame Life

From when I was a youngster until I was well into my forties, I loved Life cereal.  It was the right balance of sweet and bland – just like my winning personality (on a good day).  Then, three years ago this month The Big Negative happened.  My employer, Get Rich Never, slashed my wages by 20%. That pay cut, which spreads wider every year like the proliferation of middle age flab, was a wake-up call to me to eat healthier.

Ever since my salary entered freefall I do my best to steer clear of processed food and that includes my beloved Life cereal. Life contains two yellow food dyes # 5 and #6 and the additive, BHT — butylated hydroxytoluene.

The facts of Life.

According to Wikipedia, BHT is “a lipophilic (fat-soluble) organic compound that is primarily used as an antioxidant food additive (E number E321) as well as an antioxidant additive in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, jet fuels, rubber, petroleum products, electrical transformer oil and [my personal favorite] embalming fluid.”

Wow, talk about an appetite suppressant!

I make a conscious effort to only eat cereals that are organic and produced without preservatives.

Twigs, Flakes, Clusters and (they forgot to mention) No Flavor!

That same Wikipedia article about BHT cautions, “Some foods labeled as “no preservatives” or “no preservatives added” actually contain BHT that was present in the ingredients used to make the product but which does not require disclosure on the label.”

Huh, sneaky.

I had reasoned that eating better is one way to avoid having to see a doctor. Ironically, eight months into the horror of The Big Negative when I had assumed the diet of a self-denying ascetic that whips herself raw with a cat-o’-nine-tails and then cannonballs into an acid bath, I was diagnosed with such debilitating gastrointestinal disease, an illness I initially confused with tree pollen and grass allergies, it’s remarkable that I’m still alive.  Through medication I was able to quit taking in 2010, and a diet that has now removed almost every food with a hint of flavor from my menu, I have fully regained my health.   I’ll drink to that — even though I’ve been advised not to (as if that will ever happen).

Following my recent vacation where I allowed myself many lethal indulgences including bacon, brandy-filled chocolate, and a bottomless pit of fat and carbs, I returned home with such a prominent abdominal bulge I suspected that I was either transforming into a kangaroo or had swallowed my young.  In my case, that would be Thurber, the family dog, since my niece, Sweet Pea, is my height.

"Look at me ignore you."

What has any of this blathering got to do with Life cereal?  Since I’ve been feeling so full of figure, I have resumed my regular diet of steamed leaves sans stems seasoned with air, but one night after work, I popped into my market, Fairway, where I noticed they had Life cereal on sale.  Even though holiday season is once again history, I was overcome with temptation and I threw caution to the wind.  With a sweaty mitt I nabbed a box of the favorite cereal of my youth, declaring (inside my head):

Me:  To hell with the horrors of food dyes and BHT!  I’m destined to croak of something!  I’ll return to eating organic fortified mulch and wood shavings the rest of the year!

With a bounce in my step and a satisfied smile on my face that brings to mind the aftermath of carnal pleasure with a rare breed of romantic partner, a special someone not blind, brain damaged and added bonus, willing, I avidly anticipated the next morning’s breakfast when I would dive my spoon deeply into a heaping pile of Life.  I did just that and chowed down that bowl of sweet and bland fake colored oat squares with gusto.

An hour later, I was in the bathroom suffering what can best be described as a near-death experience that continued off and on throughout the entirety of the day.  I concluded that this might have been a side effect in a body that was a born-again BHT and food dye virgin.  Although I had some trepidation eating another bowl of Life the next day, I seem to have reestablished a rapport with toxic food chemicals, but once I polish off this box of Life, I’m going to resume my daily morning duet with Trader Joe’s Organic High Fiber O’s.  That cereal tastes much more like tree bark, but I doubt that it will expedite my visit to the crematorium.

I lean heavily left.

Lame Adventure 64: “Do you need a bag?”

Wednesday, when I returned from my much too brief West Coast escape to my exalted position of low reward as floor and wall tile sample emissary between my boss, Elsbeth, and sidekick, Greg, I noticed that I was running low on breakfast cereal.  A week earlier Elsbeth and I locked horns over my eating my cereal during the ten o’clock hour instead of the usual nine o’clock hour, the hour before she enters the premises.  The conversation went as follows; Elsbeth is in her office and I am sitting at my desk situated outside her open door.

Elsbeth (bellowing):  Can you come in here?

Me (mouth full of organic wheat carbuncles):  No.

Elsbeth (dumbfounded):  What?

Me (mouth still full):  You heard me.

Elsbeth (insistent):  Come in here!

Me (chewing):  Is this an emergency?

Elsbeth (demanding):  I need you in here!

Me (slurping milk):  Hold on.

Elsbeth (breaking point):  Why?

I finish my breakfast and enter Elsbeth’s office with my ever-ready notepad.  Her hair looks electrified.

Me:  I was eating my cereal.

Elsbeth:  So?

Me:  There’s only a two minute window between crispy and mush.

It’s so exasperating having to explain the fact of cereal eating to Elsbeth, but her ideal desk-breakfast, the kind she usually denies herself due to staggering calorie content, is a bagel with cream cheese, an egg sandwich, or possibly her favorite indulgence, a sugary, buttery and flaky pastry.  I have never seen her spoon anything floating in milk ever.

Elsbeth:  You should have eaten your cereal earlier.

Me:  I couldn’t.  I was taking care of all the things you told me you needed done “first thing” this morning.  I had to delay eating my cereal.

I resist adding “because of you” but my superior knows exactly what I am thinking.   She also knows me well enough that she can hear the abacus inside my head calculating that for most of the 1,461 days that I’ve been sitting at that desk outside her door I have ingested my cereal by half past nine.

The cereal discussion concludes.

As for what it was that my Lord and Master wanted me to do with such urgency, it completely escapes my recollection.  It was not as remotely memorable to me as our sparring over my cup of organic wheat carbuncles, but I suppose that after 1,461 days of fulfilling floor and wall tile requests, they all start to blur a tad.

This week, when I return from my much too brief West Coast hiatus, Elsbeth is quite content to have me back in the fold.  For the two days that I have been absent, she has been unable to locate a box of tile color chips we received earlier in the month.  I walk over to her bookshelf, remove the box, and hand it to her.  She finds my powers of sample location in her lair remarkable.  I resist asking, “Can I go home now?”

Greg tips me off that although it is quite hot outdoors I will not suffer heat stroke since there is a welcome breeze.  Armed with this information, during my break, I decide to run my cereal errand.  Since it is warm, I travel light with only my i.d., some cash, and cell phone.  I traipse down to the Whole Foods in Tribeca that is near my office.

Once in the store, I pick up three organic bananas, and two boxes of cereal, items that are all I can carry without drop kicking anything.  I make a beeline to the express checkout, a little wary since there was that mishap the last time I was in the store when a fellow shopper failed to follow the rules and went to the wrong register wreaking a few moments of blood pressure raising havoc for me.  Fortunately, today I am in the company of Mensa shoppers.  Everyone has extraordinary powers of proceeding to the appropriate register without inciting any brouhaha.  When it is my turn to check out, I place my three items on the counter and have this exchange:

Clerk:  Do you need a bag?

Me (what I want to say):  How else do you expect me to carry all this stuff, on my head?

Me (what I do say):  Yes.

And I feel defensive about this response.

I understand the need to conserve and recycle, and I do conserve and recycle, but sometimes I think basic practicality is ignored.  On the other hand, I suspect that this line of dialogue has been programmed into this clerk, so even if I were purchasing ten boxes of cereal and nine bananas, he’d ask the same question.  Plus, many customers shop with their own bags, such as the ones that Whole Foods sells.  I would carry one of those bags if Whole Foods would pay me an endorsement fee.  Hm, one way to supplement my meager income.  If I were really thinking, or possessed a scintilla of the intellectual acuity of my fellow Mensa-member shoppers, I would have carried my own Whole Foods logo paper bag, possibly one of the many I’ve stuffed inside the storage locker at work.  Had I planned ahead, I would not be suffering a guilt trip now over saying yes to another paper bag.  Will I remember to bring my own bag the next time I do a cereal run?

Probably not.

Clearly, I’m ready for another, and much longer, vacation, or maybe I just need to do the truly unthinkable and eat a bagel for breakfast.  Then, when my boss bleats for me, I can immediately answer her call, and gift her desk with crumbs.