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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hey Kids! You can have Frankenberry stool plus learn how to use pickled beets to trick your mom into thinking you've got internal bleeding!

An unusual craving got me thinking about the fun, delicious cereals I used to love when I was a little kid.

This was back in the days before the rise of stupid, anal health Nazis of the sort that managed to get soda pop machines banned from schools.

And speaking of anal health, I recently found out a strange fact about one of my favorite cereals, which I haven't seen in ages, Frankenberry.

Frankenberry was one of the "monster cereals" that General Mills developed in the early 1970's, the first of which, along with Frankenberry, was Count Chocula. These cereals consisted of sweet crunchy bits along with super-sugary, dried, flavored marshmallows that got all nice and soft and squishy once they absorbed the milk you'd add to the bowl. In the original commercials, both Count Chocula and Frankenberry argued about which was the "super sweet cereal" - you don't see that anymore! That was back in the days when the only criteria for kids' cereal was that it had to taste good, be loaded with sugar, and have a sense of fun to it, with an entertaining mascot, like Fruit Loops' Toucan Sam, or Cap'n Crunch, the eponymous symbol of the greatest of the seafaring cereals. It had some nutritional content too, but that was more of an afterthought.

Of course, many of today's ditzy, conditioned parents would have a conniption fit at the thought of the monster cereals. These are the same type of parents let their kids sit in front of a computer all day, and have to pre-arrange "play dates" for them with the diligence that the secretary to the CEO of a bank organizes board meetings, all while complaining about the "epidemic of childhood obesity." But back in the good old days when parents kicked their kids outside to play with whatever other random kids they may run into on the street (something that would get a parent arrested today), we managed to not be obese by being made to get off our asses and parents understood that kids burned up carbohydrates like little coal-fired gas plants going through fuel.

Following the release of the initial two monster cereals, General Mills added a third to the roster, Booberry, which was purple, super sweet, and artificial blueberry-flavored. While the other cereals left the milk with a slight tinge of color from the food dye, once you ate the Booberry from your bowl, you were left with a sugary, very purple milky beverage. It was fantastic.

I haven't noticed Booberry, or any of the monster cereals in my local supermarket for years, and thought I'd look them up to see if they were still around at all. It turns out they now are only released for a short time every Halloween, but in my reading, I learned something about Frankenberry that I never knew.

The first batches of Frankenberry led to something known medically as "Frankenberry stool,"  which was red/pinkish poo resulting from the food dye not breaking down in the digestive tract. Once General Mills learned of the condition, they changed the formula, but those very first batches led to parents thinking that their kids had internal bleeding.

And since it's Sunday, that reminded me of a good Monday morning trick for the school year.

Once, when I was a kid, I ate a whole jar of pickled beets. They are a deep red, and quite sweet tasting. But the next morning, after my morning "movement," I was shocked to see the toilet bowl looked like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I was even peeing redder than the Nile during the first curse of the Egyptians. Naturally, everything was fine and it was just the food coloring from the beets, but I had forgotten about the eating them the night before and it took me a couple of minutes to recall and make the association between the them and the red excrement. Then it occurred to me that in the event of an emergency when I wanted to avoid school, all I needed to do was eat a jar of pickled beets the night before and I'd probably be able to panic my mom into keeping me home the next day.

I never ended up using that particular trick, but it was nice to know it was there if needed.

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