5/18/08

Magically Instructive



I saw it right away, there on the Lucky Charms box: NEW MARSHMALLOW.

It said they've added little hourglasses now, though why anybody would want to gaze down into his breakfast cereal and contemplate a bobbing reminder of time's inexorable march to oblivion is beyond me. Perhaps marshmallow yawning graves didn't test well.

Still, I was excited. A new marshmallow? That's big news. I can still remember vividly when they rolled out the purple horseshoes, back in the 80s. (We liked purple food back then; I don't know what to tell you.) No longer would our Complete Breakfasts be limited to pink hearts, blue diamonds, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers. The Charm Canon had grown by one. The universe had expanded. It was a major media event.

There was the rollout of rainbows, sometime in the multihued years around the turn of the millennium, and we all accepted these novelly striped semicircles on the boxfront, along with the colorful trails they would inevitably leave in our milk, but we figured they were just short-timers.

And so a true, authentic, honest-to-sucrose new marshmallow was really pretty shocking to me. I mean, it's no secret that the 'mallow count has gone up since Lucky Charms' invention (in, what, 1955 or something?) but overall the recipe hasn't changed much. How could it? You can't add a new marshmallow (or "marbit," as General Mills calls them) very often, or pretty soon the whole box will be filled with the things, the whole shebang weighing half an ounce or less and swiftly restationed in the candy aisle.

Conversely, savvy snackers won't stand for a scarcity of marshmallows, either. The concentration must be exact and precise -- about 1:5, by my calculation. Tinker too much with the sacred ratio of toasted oats to marshmallows and you risk blowing the whole thing.

Besides, how many truly "lucky" charm shapes are there, really? Clovers, sure; stars and moons I can allow, being celestial and portentous of something or other, generally. Diamonds are a little gamey, in the sense of cards and stakes and whiskey, but still very much aligned with good fortune and luck. Marshmallow spades would have been pushing it.

And horseshoes, well, on that one the folks up at GM headquarters must have been slapping their heads wondering why they hadn't thought of it sooner. Say what you will about the purple-friendly eighties; horseshoes were a great addition. Especially for a cereal promising 25% of your recommended daily allowance of iron.

Hourglasses are no horseshoes. Let's be clear on that. But they're still new, and that makes them news. I wondered why I hadn't heard anything about this sooner... surely there was a press conference or something. I made a mental note to pay more attention to broadcast media. I could easily imagine a little blurb or something, right there at the end of the evening's news.

"...And that just about does it for Sports. So Tara, what's this I hear about a change to a favorite breakfast cereal?" "You heard right, Clyde, it seems Lucky Charms is rolling out a new marshmallow! Yes, for the first time in more than a decade, the fabled cereal box will include an all new 'charm.' Want to know what kind it is? You'll have to pour yourself a bowl and find out!.."

Thanks, Tara.

It wasn't until my curiosity got the better of me (and I'd argue that my curiosity may well *be* the better of me) that I finally looked into the matter and learned what had actually happened. According to Wikipedia, which is free but not entirely *error*-free, (still one of the best sites on the internet, though, bar none),

"as General Mills introduces new shapes, older marshmallows are phased out."
Ah. So that's how they can add a half-dozen new marshmallows during my cereal-eating career and not reach saturation. Apparently the yellow moons and blue diamonds were the first to get the ax — just as well, perhaps, since nobody ever wished upon a *moon*, anyway, and the only naturally occurring blue diamond I can think of would be the Hope Diamond, which is not lucky at all but in fact famously cursed.

Clovers bought it next, but later came back, and the general millers have since seen fit to plop in several others while I wasn't looking: leprechaun hats (makes sense), pots of gold (ditto), shooting stars (traditionally considered harbingers of doom, but ok) and briefly, for reasons that were never fully explained, The Statue of Liberty.

And as I slurped my cereal and considered the ever-shifting palette of marshmallow goodness I was at that moment sampling, I realized that General Mills is onto something.

Change is life's only constant, and the act of living is in some ways the process of accepting and embracing change. And, as the philosophers of Semisonic told us back around the time we first spotted Lady Liberty floating in our two-percent, every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.

It seems the ever-new-yet-constantly-balanced contents of the Lucky Charms box have something to teach us. Or me, at least. You can't hold on to your yellow moons and blue diamonds forever. Wait and cling and amass and accumulate and your sweet life becomes *too* sweet -- and not as delicious.

But if you *can* let go, well... it's wide open. If you want, you can always have things in your life that are NEW! and EXCITING! and even outlined in purple and presented by a leprechaun, figuratively speaking.

And if you look at it like that, then parting with an old marshmallow isn't really losing anything at all. If anything, you're giving yourself a gift: the joy and privilege of bringing something new into your life. Maybe even something as good as a pink, yellow, and blue rainbow.

5 comments:

Aaron Kohn said...

man the worst was the Lucky Charms rabbit foot 'Now with real fur!'

i spent hours getting the fur out from between my teeth.

Just Plain Jane said...

guess I'll stick with bacon and eggs. It's simpler.

James said...

Don't you remember pouring yourself a delicious bowl of Lucky Charms, then sticking your grubby fingers back into the box to push out a few extra marshmallows? In my case, 20-30 extra marshmallows... I'd then save as many as I could until all I had left was a half bowl of colored milk and 30 odd half formed marshmallows floating around. Those last few bites were deeelish.

Anonymous said...

Too bad you're getting to the age where you'll need to just stick to the Healthy Choice Mueslix.

Adults aren't allowed to have fun when they eat cereal - it's a cold, harsh fact of reality...

-jake

Colin said...

You know, I had the last of the box for breakfast this morning (well, the contents of the box) and you're absolutely right, Jake -- it *was* fun.

I guess those food scientists were onto something back in 1963, when somebody had the bright idea of putting chunks of Circus Peanuts in with the cheerio-base.

Could they have known how, years later, a little James would be pawing at the box for a grander share of the ingenious candy?