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Milking It: Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Cinnamon Toast Crunch General Mills Rating: Two-and-a-half spoons out of four

Cereal description: Thin wheat-and-rice squares that tend to curl up at the edges, like old newspapers left on the porch too long. One side of the typical bit is ridged, while the other sports the occasional dark brown streak over a tan backdrop sprinkled with cinnamon-y sprinkles that stick to anything and everything -- although they wash off your hands easier than swine-flu germs.

Box description: The cover of the box I purchased features the multi-colored Cinnamon Toast Crunch logo, which seems to have been spelled out by those refrigerator magnets designed to teach tots their ABCs, over a yellow diamond -- because, I suppose, everyone loves yellow diamonds. Pieces of the cereal swirl around the words, leaving behind what looks like cinnamon vapor trails, or swirly lines '70s-era disco goers might be tempted to snort. A banner declaring the munch to be a "Good Source of Calcium & Vitamin D" is larger than a more important announcement: "Real Cinamon & Sugar in Every Bite!" Oh yeah: Wendell, a gray-haired chef who's served as the brand's sole mascot since 1991, appears in the lower left-hand corner, rocking cotton-ball eyebrows and tufts of white hair that erupt from behind his ears. He shows off a loaf of cinnamon bread with a couple of slabs cut out of it -- which, if I'm correct, has somewhere between "nothing" and "absolutely nothing" to do with the manufacturing process. The side panel opposite the nutrition information is filled by a variation on the General Mills "Grow Up Strong With Big G Kid Cereals" campaign, this one with an elementary-school-age girl seeing if she measures up to a ruler on the left even as one hand seems to be holding her down. Otherwise, she might float right off the box. The back, meanwhile, devotes the portion of the frame not taken up by the standard "Nutrition Highlights" feature with "THE CINNAMONSENSES!," which declares that cinnamon "Smells Good!," "Looks Great!!" and "Tastes Awesome!!!" Note the escalating number of exclamation points. Someone likes his punctuation marks a wee bit too much!!!!

Taste: Despite eating cereal on almost a daily basis since the mid-'60s, I somehow managed never to try Cinnamon Toast Crunch before this particular box -- I guess because the concept never appealed to me that much. Turns out the stuff isn't too bad, albeit nothing to get overly excited about. The pieces tend to stay crisp in milk, rather than turning mushy, as real cinnamon toast would if submerged in liquid, and it's mildly sweet, if not as strong as I'd hoped when I saw the word "sugar" on the box in defiance of all the health Nazis out there. But upon hitting my mouth, the cereal turned slick in a manner that recalled Blueberry Monster Crunch, a vile concoction I reviewed in January. Granted, the film left behind by Cinnamon Toast Crunch wasn't as gag-worthy as BMC. But it still churned up more phlegm than was strictly necessary.

Conclusion: Not a bad change of pace, but frankly, there are better ways to get toasted.

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