Milking It: Cap'n Crunch's Christmas Crunch

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Christmas Crunch Quaker Oats Rating: Three and a half spoons out of four

Cereal description: Corn and oat cereal that delivers a surprise package of shapes. There's the standard Cap'n Crunch serrated yellow bundles, plus green quasi-trees and kinda snowmen, red faux-hats and bogus stars, plus the occasional purplish mutant that probably resulted from a manufacturing error. Questionable product control has seldom been so delicious.

Box description: The current box is advertised as a "Limited Edition!," and there are apparently some folks who take this designation seriously; a week or so ago, I stumbled upon a box for sale on eBay for $6.98, not counting shipping. Apparently, the cereal appreciates in value as the years go by, like wine and great art. Invest wisely. The Christmas Crunch logo mainly features seasonal reds, greens and whites, with the exception of the word "Christmas," which appears in light yellow -- the color of newly fallen snow behind a bar with no bathroom. The Cap'n, looking as overjoyed as usual, wears a puffy beard that matches his robust mustache, and his eyebrows actually hover over the white fringe of his Santa hat. He holds a spoon of cereal in one hand and A Charlie Brown Christmas DVD in the other. A bold star behind the disc's package announces a $3 rebate by mail on "select Peanuts DVDs!" -- a deal advertised on the side panel opposite the nutrition information. The Peanuts gang also dominates the back, which features a series of games -- like helping Linus to figure out which of his mini-snowmen are twins. (Don't know if artificial insemination was involved.) There's also another shot of the Cap'n -- this time, he announces, "This much fun only happens once a year, so get out and enjoy it!" Good advice, my leader.

Taste: Shock of shocks: Despite the shape and color tweaks, Christmas Crunch tastes just like Cap'n Crunch with Crunch Berries. But Cap'n Crunch with Crunch Berries tastes great. Always has, always will. Unlike some brands, Cap'n Crunch is as sweetly toxic as ever, without the sort of flavor dial-down that some brands have inflicted upon themselves in an attempt to seem in tune with parents' increasing interest in healthful eating. Hold the line against the nutrition Nazis, Cap'n!

Conclusion: Pour a bowl of this stuff and guarantee yourself a Merry little Christmas. Until the box is empty, anyway. -- Michael Roberts

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