Breakfast and Brunch

Milking It: Golden Grahams

Golden Grahams General Mills Rating: Two-and-a-half spoons out of four.

Cereal description: Thin, rigid -- and ridged -- rectangles made of whole grain wheat and corn meal whose color corresponds with the brown-sugar syrup that's largely used to flavor them. And strangely enough, that's about it: There are far fewer mystery ingredients in this recipe than most mass-manufactured cereals. Which, frankly, is a reason for concern.

Box description: The cover of the Golden Grahams box I purchased is topped by a blue band guaranteeing that the contents contain whole grain, plus a white bubble (complete with a matching checkmark) boasting that the stuff is also a "Good Source of Calcium & Vitamin D." In other words, nutrition claims trump ones about taste -- typical these days. The main backdrop is bright yellow, with a sunburst of rays emanating from behind the "Golden Grahams" logo supplemented by the words "Honey Graham" and "Ridged Cereal." Also on view: a graphic featuring a single Graham bit marked by drizzle from a honey dipper. Looks a bit like a pool of oil: mmmm-mmmm. Below, a photo-illustration of oversized cereal "enlarged to show texture" is partly blocked by a promotion declaring: "You Could Win CA$H: 1 in 10 boxes has a CARD INSIDE!" A nearby fine-print line adds, "See Side Panel For Details," but the rules aren't in that particular spot. (They're actually printed inside the box.) Instead, the usual nutrition information fills one side, with the by-now-familiar "Grow Up Strong With Big G Kid Cereals" hype opposite it. However, the back is all about this premium, with cereal and cards spilling from a safe being opened by an odd yellow hand presumably belonging to that avian mutant known as Sonny the Cuckoo Bird. Of course, this image left me wishing I was eating Cocoa Puffs instead of this stuff. And to make matters worse, a reproduction of the cards, with the most prominent one also sporting the word "CA$H" (that dollar sign for an "S" is so hip-hop), as well as an illustration of Lucky, the Lucky Charms mascot, wasn't paired with an actual slab of plastic inside. No payday for me, despite having invested tens of thousands of dollars in cereal over the years. And I deserve a payday for my loyalty, damn it!

Taste: This is another one of those cereals I haven't eaten for decades, and after sampling it, I understood why it hadn't drawn me back again and again. Although the first bite bears a strong and pleasant graham-cracker flavor, the sensation steadily fades, so that by the time I reached the bottom of the bowl, the remaining pieces were much milder in comparison. Moreover, the cereal itself gets soggy in milk pretty quickly. It never turns to mush, but the bits become comparatively spongy and limp. Overall, not a bad munch, but a rather ineffectual one: nothing to get excited about. I don't know if more decades will pass before I tuck into another box, but it wouldn't surprise me if it happened.

Conclusion: Golden, yet less than precious.