Milking It: Cap'n Crunch's Treasure Hunt Crunch

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Cap'n Crunch's Treasure Hunt Crunch Quaker Oats Rating: Three spoons out of four

Cereal description: The majority of the cereal consists of the building blocks (and they really do look like blocks) of the Cap'n Crunch brand: puffy yellow squares of delectability made from corn and oat flour. They're supplemented by what are supposed to be light red and dark red fish, plus anchors and X's (the type that mark the spot) of the same hue, although they actually resemble misshapen Crunch Berries and an array of mutated Sea Monkeys. Appropriate, doncha think?

Box description: The upper-right-hand corner of the box features a compass stamped "Limited Edition," to let kids know they'd better beg Mom and Dad to purchase the cereal immediately, if not sooner. The "Treasure Hunt Crunch" logo appears over a scroll that seems to have been made of pencil shavings, while Cap'n Crunch, looking homicidally overjoyed as usual, is accompanied by a mostly red parrot wearing a similarly ecstatic expression and a black doo-rag (to let you know that he's neither a Crip nor a Blood). Instead of a bowl, the cereal itself is piled in a treasure chest -- nice touch. Still, the real magic happens when the good Cap'n pours milk from a pitcher. The liquid starts out white, but as it touches the cereal, it slowly turns a lovely shade of aquatic blue -- and the fish, anchors and X's suddenly sprout blue speckles. Undersea chicken pox, perhaps? The side of the box opposite the nutrition information touts four other Cap'n Crunch brands -- original, Peanut Butter, Crunch Berries and Choco Crunch -- while the back highlights' "Cap'n's Treasure Hunt," complete with a variety of puzzles that you don't exactly have to be Stephen Hawking to figure out -- but they make a pleasant jumble nonetheless.

Taste: Terrific -- but in this case, that's only part of the story. In a recent review of Home Run Crunch, another variation on this classic product, I awarded three-and-half spoons rather than four only because it was too close to Crunch Berries to merit the top rating. In contrast, Treasure Hunt Crunch really is different -- but in a pretty divisive way. When milk touches the fish and so on, a deep blue color sprouts in a way that makes them look as if they're bleeding ink, and the milk suddenly takes on the appearance of Windex -- an effect that's far from appetizing. We've been trained to think of anything blue as inedible, as Alfred Hitchcock understood: Among the most famous anecdotes about the late director and inveterate prankster was his hosting of a dinner party at which all the items on the menu had been dyed blue. That's why my fifteen-year-old daughters, who kept devouring boxes of Home Run Crunch before I could review them, had one bowl of Treasure Hunt Crunch and then didn't touch the stuff again, no matter how good it tasted.

Conclusion: A successful experiment, but a deeply weird one. I was able to enjoy it -- but in my family, I was in the minority. -- Michael Roberts

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