Milking It: Cap'n Crunch's Peanut Butter Crunch

Cap'n Crunch's Peanut Butter Crunch Quaker Oats Rating: Three-and-a-half spoons out of four

Cereal description: An amalgam of corn, oat and rice flour baked into roughly shaped orbs whose surface is a symphony in brown: specs and swirls of varying intensity, pocked with the occasional dark blobs. The look doesn't recall peanut butter all that strongly, but remember: It's okay to use your imagination.

Box description: The "Peanut Butter" part of the logo is rendered in a bold, creamy smear outlined in yellow. It looks good enough to eat, as does an overflowing peanut-butter jar on the left-hand side of the cover emblazoned with the utilitarian slogan, "Give Me That Peanut Butter Crunch!" The Cap'n lends military authority to this command, saluting with one hand and proffering an enormous spoonful of the stuff with the other. (Yes, he looks insanely happy, with his eyebrows levitating near the letter "C" on his hat. But that's his job.) Meanwhile, quasi-fine print describes the munch as "Sweetened Corn & Oat Cereal." How did rice get screwed out of a credit? The side panel opposite the nutrition information advises breakfasters to "Try All 4 Great Flavors!" of the Crunch God's products, including Crunch Berries, Choco Crunch and Original Recipe, while the back features a series of games and puzzles grouped under the banner, "Welcome to the Crunch-O-Thon!" The Olympics-themed graphic spotlights a handful of youthful athletes, most with giant slabs of white, white teeth, proving once and for all (sort of) that sweetened cereals don't make your choppers fall out.

Taste: My Peanut Butter Crunch story is similar to the one told last week in the rave Cookie Crisp review, albeit with an important twist. In the case of Cookie Crisp, I steered away from it because I'm allergic to eggs, and I'd been trained since my earliest days of cognizance to equate chocolate-chip cookies with epic nausea and/or hospitalization. However, I actually tried Peanut Butter Crunch as an elementary schooler, probably a short time after it was introduced (our friends at Wikipedia mark the year as 1969) -- and I thought it was terrible. As a result, I hadn't eaten the stuff for about four decades when I tucked into a bowl for this critique, and even before I'd swallowed the first bite, I wondered: What the hell was I thinking? After all, the stuff is terrific. Granted, Reese's Puffs, among my favorite peanut-butter cereals, features a stronger taste and a firmer texture than does this blend -- surprising, given the storied solidity of standard Cap'n Crunch bits. Instead, Peanut Butter Crunch is pleasingly crisp, offering a nice snap when mashed between molars, and the flavor is light without being nonexistent -- and it seems to gain, rather than lose, impact over the course of a serving. I just ate twenty minutes ago, and I'm already salivating at the thought of it again.

Conclusion: If you hated something when you were eight-years old, try it again. You might just discover that the guy who says he learned everything he needed to know in life while in kindergarten is full of crap.

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