I wasn’t allowed to eat Rice Krispies as a kid. My mom thought the cereal too sugary. Granola, Grape Nuts and Cheerios were the breakfast options to be found. Occasionally, Shredded Wheat would show up in the cabinet, too, but there was no frosted side included. At my grandmother’s house, however, it was a different story; I could have as many bowls of Rice Krispies as I wanted at Oma’s.
Oma lived across the country from us, in New York. Both of my parents preferred it that way. Every summer, when I was little, I would fly back to visit her, all by myself. My brother was too young, and for a while too fragile, to join me.
My parents would drop me off at the gate, entrusting me to the friendly smile and capable hands of a stewardess who would ensure I had Ginger Ale and plastic wings and paper cups with wet, hot paper towel stuffed inside to hold up against my ears when the cabin pressure got too great. And when I arrived at my destination, Oma would be waiting for me, and she would envelop me in a powder- and polyester-scented hug.
I was the first grandchild so, of course, I was secretly loved the best.
I remember that Oma’s kitchen was blue, though it may have been yellow. I know for certain only a few things: the bathroom wall paper was metallic gold and black, printed with images of giraffes, zebras and other Safari animals; a baby star fish was stuck between a beam and the window screen on the sleeping porch; the single-serving boxes of Rice Krispies cereal were kept in the cupboard by the kitchen sink.
My day was brought to life by Snap! Crackle! Pop!
An overflowing bowl of Rice Krispies greeted me every morning. Oma and I would sit and listen to the melody. Only after consuming every single mushy Rice Krispie would I spend the rest of the day playing in the kiddie pool, or climbing the tree in her front yard, or playing with my dad’s old toys that were stored in the basement next to the ping pong table.
Later, after my pediatrician discovered I was allergic to milk, and I started having to put apple juice on my cereal, I grew to prefer Granola and Grape Nuts and Cheerios (though never Shredded Wheat). Kellogg’s stopped running the ad with the cute little elves– or, perhaps, Keebler absconded with them and forced them into a tree? I started acknowledging that I was never full after just one bowl of Rice Krispies, and that I would rather binge on a 10 oz box of something other than popped air.
I stopped going back to New York in the summers. My grandmother moved states, and then died. I started eating egg whites.
Last night, I ran out of Robitussin. I’d been hacking up chunks of lung (or so it felt) for days and getting very little sleep. I was morose and teary and feeling decidedly put upon, wondering who would attend my funeral and wishing I had the energy to put away my clean clothes before I died. A friend recommended (via text) that I try taking some NyQuil. I knew I couldn’t leave my house. So I pulled out the Yummy delivery booklet and, lo and behold, they had both Robitussin and NyQuil on the menu.
They also had Rice Krispies.
I ordered all three items, and all three items arrived at my door in less than 30 minutes. A cute boy kindly handed them over to me while simultaneously trying not to recoil in horror at the sight of my braless, mucous-spewing state. After giving the kid a decent tip, I immediately downed the prescribed dosage of both Robitussin and NyQuil – first ensuring there were no counter-indicators. Then, I poured myself a heaping bowl of Rice Krispies and liberally doused it with soy milk. Thank goodness the apple juice days are long gone!
I let myself be lulled by the reassuring Snap! Crackle! Pop!
Comfort. Memories. Love. All provided by a little huge helping of cereal.
Needless to say, the puffed rice didn’t solve all my problems, or even take away my cough, but it did make me smile, breathe a little deeper within a flood of memories and give gratitude for grandmothers who ignore the rules.
What comfort food brings memories rushing back for you?