Milking It: Banana Nut Cheerios

Banana Nut Cheerios General Mills Rating: Two spoons out of four

Cereal description: Those readers who hail from the planet Earth will recognize the standard Cheerios design: a circle with a hole in the middle, like a letter "O" designed to fill the diner with cheer. (Still can't figure out where they got the name.) The appearance of these corn-and-oat bits differs very little from the look of the originals, other than sporting a slightly darker (but still light) brown hue. Maybe they spent a few extra minutes in the tanning booth.

Box description: The cover features a giant "NEW!" banner across the top and the words "Banana Nut" over the Cheerios logo, with a cereal piece for the dot of the "i" that's a noticeably deeper brown than the cereal on an advertising-milk-splashed spoonful of the stuff immediately below. Doesn't the right eye know what the left eye is doing over at General Mills? A description at the bottom of the frame depicts the stuff as "Sweetened Corn and Oat Cereal Flavored with Real Banana and Natural Banana and Nut Flavors" - a description that's a little more succinct than Moby Dick, but not by much. The background behind the spoon is bright yellow, partially camouflaging bananas that are pictured in a shot that's slightly out of focus, as if the bunch sauntered in during the middle of the photo session but hadn't gotten settled yet. The panel opposite the nutrition information contains more nutrition information -- can't get enough of those calorie breakdowns -- while the back is dominated by an elegant sky-view of a bowl encircling a breakfast tableau and the phrase "Delight in the great taste of real banana!" written in the sort of cursive script sure to please Martha Stewart. Beneath this display is a pitch for other Cheerios variations and a valentine-shaped icon emblazoned with the words "May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease." I suppose it may also reduce the risk of a broader war in the Middle East, but it doesn't mention that part.

Taste: Banana Nut Cheerios is yet another new cereal with a taste that's mild, not wild. The banana flavor is more evident when eaten dry than with milk. That will no doubt excite the primary consumers of Cheerios straight out of the box: infants under the age of eighteen months. For the rest of us, though, the effect is noticeable only when concentrating -- meaning that if you're reading the newspaper, watching TV or doing pretty much anything else other than focusing with laser-like intensity on each bite of breakfast, Banana Nut Cheerios will strike you as only slightly different from regular Cheerios. Which isn't the worst thing in the world, but it sort of defeats the purpose of boasting about how "NEW!" the brand is, doesn't it?

Conclusion: To paraphrase Gwen Stefani, this shit is bananas -- but barely.

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