Milking It: Frankenberry
Frankenberry General Mills Rating: Three-and-a-half spoons out of four
Cereal description: Pacman-shaped bits made of whole grain corn -- although it's hard to believe that these unnaturally red (almost neon) morsels have anything organic in them whatsoever. (The pieces are so bright that they'd be perfect for using as a trail markers in the woods if not for the fact that sugar-starved squirrels would probably scarf them down as quickly as they hit the forest floor.) They're accompanied by a variety of pink, blue, purple and white "spooky" marshmallows that resemble, well, nothing in particular. They're essentially crunchy Rorschach tests. I'm sure it's extremely significant whether a given person thinks the pink ones look like Frankenstein hands, or mushrooms, or penis heads. As for what it means specifically, well -- hell if I know.
Box description: The covers affixed to the surviving monster cereals -- Count Chocula, which is available all year round in my neighborhood, plus Frankenberry and Boo Berry, which only tend to show up around Halloween -- don't need to sell themselves with photo-illustrations of bowls filled with cereal "enlarged to show texture" and goopy splashes of advertising milk. All that's needed is a logo and a big drawing of the mascot in question. Here, the word "Frankenberry" is split into two parts -- no hyphen needed -- and made to resemble pink steel pocked with carefully spaced bolts. And Frankie? He's got a properly bulbous head, eyes rimmed with metallic spectacles and oversized discs for ears, with a pressure gauge and a modified steam whistle tossed in for good measure. Oh yeah -- he's only given one tooth, which speaks volumes about this stuff's sugar content. Too bad the rest of the box is so boring. The panel opposite the nutrition information features another version of the logo, while the back showcases a "Scary Monsters Poster" that hasn't been changed for years, with one exception; it's smaller than it once was to make room for generic "Nutrition Highlights from General Mills." And, honestly, nutrition is the last thing I want to be thinking about when I'm eating Frankenberry.
Taste: I don't have empirical evidence to support this assertion, but I'm pretty sure General Mills has changed the recipe for the monster cereals in recent years -- subtly reducing the sugar content as a capitulation to the it's-supposed-to-be-good-for-you mania that's changed the cereal business for the worse, at least from a taste perspective. Even my beloved Count Chocula, which I regard to be worthy of the breakfast Nobel Prize, no longer seems as deliciously toxic as it once did. And yet, even a lesser Frankenberry is better than just about anything else out there, if only because the marshmallows are so damn wonderful: crisp and bursting with lip-smacking flavor. The cereal itself is pretty good, too, and I love the way it turns the milk slightly pink, as if everything it touches winds up a little sweeter afterward. Ahhhhh!
Conclusion: Don't just bring out this stuff at Halloween, retailers! I want to chow down on it all year long. -- Michael Roberts
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.