Saturday is a special day for me. As the start of the 2012 college football season (well, technically, the Saturday start) it marks my annual right of coach potatoness. This year will be a bit more special than most years, however. Not only because my new job has inspired within me a desire for some genuine relaxation on the weekends, but because my favorite college football team, the Navy Midshipmen, will kick off from Dublin, Ireland against Notre Dame.
This is great for a number of reasons, chief among them the time difference. I speak of course to the fact that a game played in England on a Saturday evening means a game watched in America on a Saturday morning.
And what, fellow children of the 1990s, says TV on a Saturday morning better than cereal?
The choice of said cereal to consume while vegging out in front of a Saturday morning football game from Ireland is really a no-brainer. Copious amounts of sugar, all the better to recapture the childhood experience of One Saturday Morning cartoons, is a must. So to can be said for an enjoyable cereal mascot. And while Tony the Tiger’s athletic achievements make him a strong candidate, the setting points me to one and only one choice; Lucky Charms.
How have we not discussed this bastion of all things right with our childhoods before today? Well, better late than never. As many of you know, I have many gripes with the world, with one those gripes being the (in my mind) inexcusable crusade of, uh, certain people, to attempt to demonize large companies which manufacture breakfast cereals with (gasp!) more than a tablespoon of sugar per serving. Obviously, many kids and adult cereals fall within this spectrum, but perhaps no cereals have born more of a brunt of this attack than Lucky Charms. Perhaps it’s because of the marshmallows. Perhaps it’s because of the always enjoyable commercials. Maybe it’s just a subconscious prejudice against the obviously Roman Catholic Lucky Charms Leprechaun (who, by the way, goes by L.C. or ‘Lucky’). For whatever reason, Lucky Charms has been made the villain by those who blame the childhood obesity problem in this country on big cereal, and that’s just wrong. I ate this ‘crap’ every day right from the box when I was a kid, and still ran hitch routs into double coverage during tackle football at Recess. Was I Alex Teich shredding Notre Dame’s defense? Not exactly, but I was close.
Now, back to the issue of Lucky Charms representing something with the capability of bringing about the downfall of civilization. Maybe, if Lucky Charm’s marshmallows weren’t made up of stars and other magical shapes (more on this later) and instead featured little images of Joseph Stalin or Soviet Tanks, than we could proclaim them truly evil. Until that day though, they’ll be what they have always been. And that’s magically freaking delicious.
My soapbox of food politics aside for a moment, I feel as though a further examination of WHY Lucky Charms works is in order. Let us begin, as we always do, with a dry snacking rundown.
There have been times in my life where I’d favor my handfuls towards the oat pieces. There have been times when I’d go marshmallow crazy. These days, I’ve come to understand that each contributes something special, and that only a 50/50 handful can yield the truly magically delicious taste. The oats — -crispy-crunchy, oatey, sweet but not cloying – are best enjoyed in a slow chew with the marshmallows. ‘Mallows, it can be said, add a certain and unique binding property when exposed to saliva. At first slighty crunchy, they bind and blend together all textures and flavors they encounter once given the benefits of the first stage of mechanical digestion (ie. Chewing). What comes together is thus a sweet yet oddly hearty agglomeration of oats, sugar, dextrose and corn syrup, with the latter three dissolving in a transformative rainbow of perceptive sweetness. Hearts, Stars, and Horseshoes — Damn! son – for a serial cereal snacker, it’s as curiously satisfying in the way a fine chocolate or cheese is.
As luck would have it, my tastes have evolved enough in recent years to the point where I can now enjoy cereal with milk, as opposed to just a dry snack. It’s a good thing, too, because Lucky Charms are excellent in milk (like I need to tell you…) It’s not just that is leaves a sweet yet surprisingly hearty end milk (stained green, I should add) but that the textural properties of the marshmallows create a unique flavor experience.
It starts with the mouthfeel of the marshmallows. They’re smooth with a vicious surface, like a licked popsicle, actually. A light and sugary taste, verging somewhere between meringue and whipped light cream, literally hangs on your tongue, while the final bite of the ‘mallow still yields enough resistance to meet the definition of crunchy. As for the flavor, it’s sweet of course, but with a cotton-candy aftertaste that is found nowhere else in cerealdom, to my knowledge. The best part is you don’t even have to stand in line at the fair behind whiney kids and to the aroma of cow poop to get the full effect of the taste.
In terms of cereal X-factors, Lucky has it all. Boxes of Lucky Charms throughout history have come with mazes, toys in the box, and heck, even labels telling me I’m getting more whole grains than any other ingredient. The marshmallows come in eight distinct shapes (can you name them?) all of which were represented in a random, 27-gram pour (how’s that for luck?). The commercials are, as I’ve stated, quite excellent, although I tend to favor those which have featured the song naming all the ‘mallow shapes.
Lucky Charms is hard to beat. It’s iconic, to say the least, but when you break it down, it’s more than just sugary nonsense. Are there drawbacks? Well, the oats are a biter grainier than say, Malt-o-Meal’s excellent Marshmallow Matey’s, but I’d content the marshmallows are better. As for Marshmallow and oat cereals on a whole, there are established textural and flavor components which make the combination great, and far from the liquid poisen some claim it is. I say let the kids keep their Lucky Charms and Marshmallow Matey’s. Come this Saturday I know I’ll be enjoying a bowl in front a live football game from Ireland, hoping some of those marshmallow shapes serve as harbinger for a lucky — or just damn good — upset on the gridiron.
Beat Notre Dame!
Lucky Charms (Original)
- Price: $2.99 (21 oz. box on clearance at Safeway)
- Ranking: 9/10
- Chances I’d Buy Again: 100%