Milking It: Cocoa Pebbles

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Cocoa Pebbles Post Rating: Three spoons out of four

Cereal description: Rice cereal that doesn't look anything like rice. Instead of retaining a kernel-like shape, as does the stuff that snaps, crackles and pops, Cocoa Pebbles features grain that seems to have been imploded -- a process that transforms it into the equivalent of chocolate-coated rice shrapnel. Look out below!

Box description: Stretched across the top of the container I purchased is a banner reading "Family Size" -- a wonderful thought, since if moms, dads and their kids sat down together each morning to bond over the sugariest cereals on the market, the world would be a better place. The Cocoa Pebbles logo, with the letters looking as if they were roughly hewn from a wedge of gold, hover over a brownish backdrop with concentric circles that are supposed to suggest a deep vat of chocolate -- although they remind me of the spinning images into which Alfred Hitchcock characters fall during hallucination sequences. Over these words (and the red Post signature stamp), Barney Rubble, a character who's continued to thrive for generations despite a severe physical handicap (his eyes are all pupil, with no white areas whatsoever), uses a fishing pole with an oaken bucket attached to its line to scoop giant-size bits from a bowl splashed with particularly sperm-like advertising milk. In the lower left-hand corner, Fred Flintstone, who usually tries to prevent Barney from indulging in this particular munch -- presumably because the idea of him chomping on something named for his daughter seems creepy to him -- grins toothlessly at the viewer, not noticing a thing. After participating in this shtick since 1971, when Cocoa Pebbles were introduced, maybe Fred's finally ready to move on. The side panel opposite the nutrition information touts Postopia.com, a website where surfers can create their "very own place," then spruce it up with "hip & hilarious decorations" like a yellow scooter, a green lava lamp or a pink cat with red splatters on its face that resemble an especially unfortunate birthmark. On the back, meanwhile, are a series of puzzles and games so complicated that the answers are printed on the inside of the packaging. For example, the answer to the question "How Many Cocoa Pebbles Are Hidden In This Scene?" excludes the ones in Barney's bowl, his spoon and several other activities, which I had to prematurely destroy the box to discover. Damn you, Barney Rubble! Damn you!

Taste: Here's where things get complicated, at least for me. I used to devour Cocoa Pebbles on a regular basis, but well over a decade ago, I got sick after eating a batch -- and even though my urping was caused by the flu, not a breakfast-related malady, my system couldn't be convinced otherwise. Since then, I've only purchased them intermittently, because I tend to feel mildly queasy after consuming them -- a condition that doesn't afflict me when indulging in Count Chocula, Cocoa Krispies or any other wonderfully chocolaty product. The same thing happened again this time around, too. Fortunately, though, Cocoa Pebbles' strong flavor, supplemented by a pleasing texture that lasts longer in milk than might seem obvious at first blush, makes it worth a little intestinal distress. Once a year or so, that is.

Conclusion: Rock on, Cocoa Pebbles.

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