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Milking It: Lucky Charms with the New Hourglass Marshmallow Charm

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Lucky Charms with the New Hourglass Marshmallow Charm General Mills Rating: Three and a half spoons out of four

Cereal description: Oat cereal pieces in a variety of shapes. Most of them call to mind pagan wall drawings: X's, stemmed triangles that suggest puffy trees and three-leaf clovers (guess mascot Lucky is hoarding all the four-leaf ones for himself). There's also bits that look like the Christian fish symbol and answer the age-old question WWJEFB: What Would Jesus Eat For Breakfast? Added to the mix are a slew of marshmallows: hats, rainbows, moons and that new hourglass model. It's General Mills' way of telling us to stop wasting time and start eating already!

Box description: The current box sports the time-tested Lucky Charms logo, complete with a "Y" at the end of the first word that subtly transforms itself into a rainbow: nice! Beneath it, Lucky the Leprechaun, blessed with that rare combination of blue eyes and orange eyebrows so thick and bushy that they seem to be part of his hairline, shows off his bright band of upper teeth; none on the bottom ones are visible, presumably because they've rotted out over the years. To the viewer's left is an enormous "Hourglass Marshmallow Charm," another elegantly designed slab of sweetness (it's yellow, with an inverse orange triangle in its upper chamber). A text stripe above a bowl of cereal modestly doused in advertising milk reads, "Good Source of Calcium & Vitamind D: Nutrition to help your kids grow up strong!" That theme is reinforced on the side panel opposite the nutrition information, which features a goofy looking kid trying to measure himself against a grid to his right. If you're no taller than a cereal box, Junior, pour yourself another bowl. And what's beneath more "Nutrition Highlights" on the back? An elaborate fantasia based on the Hourglass Charm, which "has the power to stop time -- speed up time -- reverse time." And as a bonus, it's more fun to eat than Superman (although Lois Lane might disagree).

Taste: I tend to go a long time between Lucky Charms purchases, mostly because the oat cereal is average at best. It's merely utilitarian, rather than packing a flavor punch of its own. That passage of weeks or months probably explains why every time I do buy the stuff, I'm amazed anew at how great it tastes -- and it's all because of the marshmallows. Every so often, Lucky Charms tries to liven up the brand by introducing a new 'mallow shape: Remember all the hoopla about "Blue Diamonds" a few years back? That's all marketing, of course, but there is a payoff for the consumer: a big one. In addition to being visually enticing (love the green bowlers with the embossed clovers), they're huge by cereal standards -- big globs of delectably coagulated sugar. And because they retain their texture and firmness in milk, each bite releases a flavor explosion so pleasurable that they could probably help junkies kick smack. This is one addiction with no adverse side effects -- and they don't leave track marks.

Conclusion: Not quite the mythical pot of gold, but close enough. -- Michael Roberts

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