The Civil War in Cereal (II): Fort Sumter

January 12, 2008

Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States on November 6, 1860. South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860. Lame duck President James Buchanon seemed desperate to escape from the White House without the blood stains of war blotting his coat.

But following Lincoln’s assumption of power on March 4, 1861, affairs settled to mere verbal sparring. Neither side, it seemed, wanted to martyr the other, with border states hanging on each desperate political maneuver, eager to choose sides. Missouri and Kentucky, locked between the Union and Confederacy, had split loyalties. But also states in the great northwest: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa: these were the breadbasket of the North, from which it drew seemingly endless reserves of cereal. The South pinned great hope on their joining the revolution. Who, after all, could fight on a stomach devoid of Wheaties?

Meanwhile, Winfield Scott, aging General-In-Chief of the Union army, proposed the plan which would ultimately suffocate the Confederacy. The Tony Tiger plan was a blockade surrounding the country, then slashing through the Mississippi like a tiger’s claw:

“In connection with such blockade, we propose a powerful movement down the Mississippi to the ocean, with a cordon of posts at proper points … the object being to wring every flake of golden corn from the insurgent’s coffers with the strict blockade of the seaboard, so as to envelop the insurgent States and bring them to terms with less spoilt milk than by any other plan.”

The South struck first. Competent but bombastic cajun Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard ordered a bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Already running low on supplies of Wheatabix, Robert Anderson, commanding general of union forces, surrendered during the seige. He wrote Lincoln, lamenting that:

“They would have battered our fort until naught remained but powder as at the bottom of a cereal-sack. If not, we shall be starved out from lack of milk-supply and Chex within a few days.”

It was a gentlemanly siege: after hours of shelling, only two lives were lost, and Anderson was allowed to return to Washington. The rest of the war would lead to a far more tragic loss of human lives and whole milk.



The Civil War in Cereal (I)

January 10, 2008

If you read mainstream historical works on the American Civil War, you’ve probably encountered lines like this:

“The Confederates held another advantage: their soldiers had been using guns and traveling through the country all their lives, unlike their northern counterparts, who held factory and clerical positions.”

This is debateable, but what has recently been revealed is that a by far more profound cultural difference separating the North and the South was the order of introducing cereal and milk into the bowl. Indeed, the Yanks’ habit of pouring milk before cereal nullified their industrial advantage in the early years of the war and retarded overall progress. It was only Grant’s emphatic shift in pouring order (not Lincoln’s conciliatory attitude toward reintegration with the South) that ended the war and truly united a broken country. Join us at MilkAfterCereal over the next few weeks as we examine the history of the American Civil War in terms of cereal consumption via a series of ongoing posts.

Elasticity Cornflake Cereal (Search Engine Term Poetry)

January 9, 2008

elasticity cornflake cereal
the soft yield before the crunch
the soft furrow after the plow
the grain tilled, the bowl filled
beige dew, golden grace, maple table;
earthy floor.
A new crate carted:
A new crop wrought:
the sun dawning ecstatic rebirth
your warm comfortable face
spoons a harvest of cornflakes

The First Stirring of Love (Part III)

December 19, 2007

Part I || Part II
The end of our brief relationship hit me hard. Although I had only known Michelle for a short period, I had high expectations for our romance. After all, most girls just aren’t that flirtatious. Most are unwilling to blow out their colon regularly. Even Trader Joe’s High Fiber Cereal wasn’t popular with girls. After all, light sugary fare (which could hardly be considered a real meal) has a the bubblegum pop-music feel so many girls adore.
My hopes had been focused on Michelle, like sunlight through a magnifying glass. I’ve been through a lot of relationships in the recent past, with a lot of wonderful women, but nothing had really worked out. It felt like I was throwing the sticky men included in bags of cereal who flop down walls at the monolithic wall of life, but they all slid down eventually. I thought she’d stick. To make matters worse, I began building her up in my mind, making her into someone who couldn’t possibly exist.
Daydreaming at my job, I’d imagine us going to the supermarket in the afternoon, and walking down the cereal isle with arms outstretched, two carts abreast, knocking boxes right into the baskets. I imagined us touring the General Mills factory. We’d be eating Basic 4 straight off the assembly line, and in would burst Dave Mackay, CEO of Kellogg’s, in the nude, and he’d empty boxes of Rice Crispies all over us. A week’s worth of nights were wasted staring vacuously at the television screen. But what I was really imagining was her hopping through the door dressed as Trix rabbit, and she’d finally get to taste my fresh Trix.
I’m not a discriminating lover. I tolerated a girl who insisted we eat Rice Crispies dressed as Snap and Crackle, with her greasy high school boyfriend playing the role of Crunch. But I have to draw a line somewhere. As long as a girl fills her bowl with cereal before she pours the milk, we’re basically ok. If she doesn’t – it’s over.
After all – where’s the intimacy? They say relationships should be based on more than breakfast, but I just can’t see it. Breakfast ensures physical connectedness, after all, and that can’t be discounted.
So I missed Michelle, but it wasn’t really her that I missed – just the concept she stood for. Someone whose cereal I could pour, or who could sweep up when I tried emptying Cheerios through a torn cellulose bag. It was really the graceful cereal pouring of Lindsay – sweet, sweet Lindsay – who I missed, even after two years.
But I was done with Michelle.

Should Milk Shine (A Poem)

December 18, 2007

Should milk shine, the holy glint,
Caught in a circle of unaccustomed light,
Would dehydrate, and any boy of cereal
Look twice before he fell from grace.
The features in their private dark
Are formed of sand, but let the false day come
And from her lips, half-crushed grapenuts fall,
The mummy napkins expose a faded chin.

I have been told to reason by the box,
But box, like brain, leads helplessly;
I have been told to reason by the pulse,
And, when it quickens, alter the pouring pace
Till cereal and milk lie level and the same
So fast I move defying time, the quiet gentleman
Whose beard fills with Wisconsin milk.

I have heard many years of crunching,
And many years should see no change.

The bowl I filled while playing in the park
Has not yet turned soggy.

-Dylan Thomas

The Taste of Milk After Cereal (A Search Engine Term Poem)

December 17, 2007

Your touch graces the air
Leaves it cool, gentle, sweet;
The taste of milk after cereal
Bleached bones beside warm flesh:
But fact.

Weekend Cereal History #4

December 15, 2007

No one knows whether the great French Enlightenment thinker Voltaire poured his cereal first or his milk first. Even historians specializing in Voltaire are unsure. He authored 300 volumes, after all, none of which clearly state which he preferred. It isn’t that the historians are incompetent, but that Voltaire wrote ascerbic, sarcastic works, and it’s difficult to intuit when he’s serious and when he’s being ironic. It now seems likely that we’ll never know the truth (but the smart money is on his pouring the cereal first).