Tuesday, November 22, 2022

That's a lot of Cheerios.

     "I'm sorry," I said, pausing the quickstep to my car in the windy Costco parking lot as evening fell last week. "But I have to ask..."
     One of the beauties doing my job for the past third of a century: I can intrude into the lives of other people, autmatically, without hesitation or embarrassment, I didn't break step, tossing out my remark as I vectored past.
      The man loading dozens of bright yellow jumbo boxes of Cheerios into the back of his car paused and looked at me.
    "You must really like Cheerios," I continued, half statement, half question.
    I stopped and introduced myself. He said he is Moha Bouacha, a member of the Winnetka/Northfield Rotary Club, and they're putting Thanksgiving food baskets together to donate to Good News Partners in Chicago. 
     "Rotary is all about service," he said, and immediately snagged me to speak. I told him I've spoken downtown at Rotary/One — so designated because it was the first chapter, founded in Chicago by a homesick New Englander on Feb. 23, 1905. 
Preparing food baskets
     That merited a page in my new quotidian city history book,"Every Goddamn Day." 
     Their motto is "Service above self," such as feeding the needy at the holidays, a practice I'm in awe of, being essentially a self above service kind of guy. I feel charitable enough providing table space for 23 relatives at Thanksgiving.
     Rotary is not all self-sacrifice, however. It is also about making beneficial connections. Research for the Rotary vignette in my book  led to my reading "Babbitt," which contains a group modeled on the Rotary, and three other Sinclair Lewis novels, and writing about them in the newspaper. You follow a thread, it can lead unexpected places. Bouacha was wearing a purple NU sweatshirt, and I asked out that too. Turns out, he was associated with Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management.
Delivering food baskets
     "Hail to purple, hail to white," I said, my standard greeting when meeting a fellow Wildcat. He looked me quizzically and, pressing forward, I explained that I've
 started writing for Rotary magazine, published in Evanston. My first piece, about recovery, ran in the September issue, and now I'm working on a cover story about, well, I probably shouldn't say. A serious subject of national importance, one that I feel proud to tackle. Lives will be saved. More on that another day.
     I should point out that by tucking Cheerios into their food baskets, the Rotary is giving out the most popular cereal in the country — almost half of American households regularly purchase Cheerios, or one of its numerous variants and brand extension flavors. Ours is one of them; my wife enjoys them dry, as a snack. Delving into the corporate history, I see there is the echo of a lawsuit baked into the name. Originally the half-inch wide life preservers were called "Cheerioats." But Quaker Oats brazenly claimed it had exclusive rights to the word "oats"— quite cheeky for a company that appropriated the reputation of a religious sect, against their will — so General Mills switched the name to "Cheerios" in July, 1945.


  1. This is an example of why I start each day with EGD.

  2. Definitely one of the perks enjoyed by reporters and other nosy people. I definitely would have "vectored" past with a desultory wave and, "You must really like Cheerios," and he would have waved back...if he heard me.


  3. I'm old enough to remember when General Mills sponsored The Lone Ranger radio show.

  4. I am visiting my daughter’s in Minnesota and now I am going to tell them all I learned from you this morning. They know all about you because I give them your books!

  5. (I was curious to read Rotary magazine but couldn’t find it anywhere.)

  6. I've always liked Cheerios and oats in general. I give GM credit for keeping the standard yellow-box product pretty simple and healthful, as breakfast cereals go. Few ingredients, aside from vitamins, with only 1 gram of added sugar.

    It certainly seems like Cheerios double as *the* go-to snack for many toddlers, so it's good that they're not filled with crap!

    To make sure the potentially suspect-sounding ingredient, Tripotassium Phosphate, wasn't problematic, I actually googled it and found this article. Linking to it mainly because it includes this, and I know that NS is a fan of Dr. Johnson.

    "Samuel Johnson, the 18th-century writer who compiled the first authoritative dictionary of the English language, whimsically defined oats as the grain 'eaten by people in Scotland, but fit only for horses in England.' A clever Scot supposedly retorted, 'That’s why England has such good horses, and Scotland has such fine men!'" Not sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if Johnson's quip has appeared on EGD before.


  7. Cheerios were on sale at Costco until last Sunday, limit ten two packs of them.
    I only bought six two packs, no more room for ten.
    Costco usually puts them on sale twice a year, which is when I buy them.
    One of the jokes about Cheerios is you can tell a car with small children, because there's always a bunch of loose Cheerios on the floor, dropped by the kids.
    When I dog sat my sister's Samoyed for several weeks, if I dropped one, she immediately scarfed it up!

  8. Interesting how someone associated with NU's Kellogg School is purchasing products from the rival General Mills. How about Special K?

  9. My wife had just come back from the store and had handed me a huge box of Cheerios, which I had ripped open. I was snarfing down handfuls of Os when I clicked on that image of dozens of boxes of the same stuff. Does art imitate life...or vice-versa?

  10. with the possible exception of when we went somewhere on vacation I have had Cherrios virtually every day of my life as far as I can remember. I am getting up there in age

  11. I say Go Cats ! whenever I see someone in anything purple with an NU logo on it. I'll have to remember "Hail to Purple ! Hail to White !"

  12. I'd like to know what he paid for those Cheerios, a box that size at the Jewels would be six bucks today. The comparable product at Trader Joe's is half the price and just as good.


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