Milking It: Mighty Bites HoneyCrunch

Mighty Bites HoneyCrunch Kashi Rating: One-and-a-half spoons out of four

Cereal description: Lots of different grains in this stuff: oat, wheat, corn, rice, rye, barley -- pretty much everything included in the grain page on Wikipedia other than millet (which is just as well, since I don't know what the hell that is). The pieces come out an industrial light-tan hue and are shaped like little people, complete with a small head, stubby arms and thick-thighed legs. It's cereal as cannibalism -- although taking a bite out of your neighbor would probably be tastier.

Box description: The Kashi logo, complete with the slogan declaring it to be "The Seven Whole Grain Company" and a long, generic plant strand with a leafy top, appears on a green banner over the "Mighty Bites" name, reproduced in puffy red lettering at the top of a swirling honey tornado that bursts from a bowl at the base of the cover. Also included are two more announcements -- "The NOTHING ARTIFICIAL Whole Grain Cereal" and "With Nutrients for Developing Minds" (the latter circling a grain-filled lightbulb) -- plus a rare up-front game. "Can you find the hidden beehive, spaceship and Kashi lightbulb in the milk?" a blurb asks, and while I had no problem spotting the ship, locating the honeycomb and bulb were a bitch. (Okay, it took about ten seconds total -- but that was eight seconds longer than expected.) The side panel opposite the nutrition information is crammed with advertising copy about the history of Kashi, which is on a "25-year mission of helping people lead healthier lives" (the starship Enterprise only needed a fifth that long to boldly go where no one had gone before); the alleged yumminess of HoneyCrunch (accent on "alleged"); and more dietary info ("each serving provides over 1/3 of the recommended daily amount of whole grains, has 5 grams of protein, and is a good source of 15 vitamins and minerals"). The back sticks with the good-for-you theme in a passage about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it also includes a "Mighty Maze" in which breakfasters are asked to help one cereal piece "get to my friends." All of whom are fated to be pulverized and ingested. But at least they'll go down together.

Taste: All of the honey imagery on the box left me expecting a sweet smell when I opened up the box. But when I unsealed the liner inside, I was shocked to discover that the box had more of a scent than the cereal did -- a harbinger of the bad news that followed. The cereal has precious little flavor, period, and a chunky consistency that put me in mind of sawdust mixed into a slurry, poured into molds and fired in a kiln. Mighty Bites aren't inedible, but they're merely utilitarian -- something to put into your stomach to keep it from cramping all day long. The amount of pleasure generated by moving them from the mouth into the digestive system is so small that a micrometer couldn't measure it.

Conclusion: Honey is listed among the ingredients; I checked. But you couldn't prove it by my tongue. All-natural is fine, but judging by this munch, artificial is better.

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