A Cereal Crime! (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Have you been the victim of a cereal crime?

The Marx Brothers: Breakfast shenanigans!

Not serial, but cereal — as in a breakfast food produced from roasted grain. Although “serial” does denote an act or behavior committed repeatedly, at regular intervals, and sometimes even compulsively; which pretty much describes our breakfast habits, such as eating cereal. And not really a “crime” as in a wanton and often calculated violation of legislated laws; but rather something we consider a deplorable practice (as in “Shame on you!”) born out of wanton greed and/or calculated (planned) results. Confused? You should be. So let’s settle our brains with a bit of background.

Breakfast cereal was created, quite by accident, in 1898. At the time, Dr. John Kellogg was operating a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. After his brother Will arrived to help run things, the two men decided to whip up a batch of granola (using wheat berry) to feed their “patients.” Although the brothers failed miserably at preparing granola, they accidentally hit upon a method for creating wheat flakes, thereby forever changing the course of culinary history. Dare we state it? The first flake was a fluke!

Will Kellogg continued tinkering in the kitchen, using other grains, and eventually created corn flakes. He told his brother, the good doctor, to keep the recipe a secret. But John was so proud of the process used to create the flakes, that he couldn’t resist demonstrating it to one of his patients, a businessman named Post. Big mistake. C.W. Post immediately implemented the new process in the manufacture of his own Post Cereals, thus getting the jump on the brothers Kellogg, and ultimately becoming their greatest competition! Apparently the early bird gets far more for breakfast than just the worm!

We stated that Post was a “patient” at Dr. Kellogg’s sanitarium. Allow us to explain. In this case, the sanitarium was sort of like a club for health nuts. Not to be confused with a sanatorium — which is sort of like a club for the mentally ill. (We’d write “nuts” again, just to underscore the analogy, but that would be in very bad taste.) So … at Kellogg’s sanitarium a doctor created a bunch of flakes. But at a sanatorium doctors treat a bunch of flakes! (*Cough* Totally inexcusable!)

Chico Marx: Hey, boss, he no looks-a so good.

After his brother divulged the secret for a smart breakfast, W.K. Kellogg left the sanitarium in a huff. In 1906, he started up the “Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company,” hired 44 employees, and created the first commercial batch of the breakfast cereal that would eventually be called Kellogg’s Corn Flakes!

But what’s all this about a “cereal crime”? Well, have you ever opened a new box of corn flakes — or Wheaties, or Rice Krispees, or (fill in the blank) — and wondered why the package is only half full? (Or, depending upon your general outlook, half empty.) You go to the market, grab the biggest container of cereal you can find, perhaps one of those cheaper, store brands packaged in a box the size of a steamer trunk, take it home, and … Hey, dude, where’d my cereal go?

Like, no way, Scoob!! Where’s the rest of our cereal?!! Ruh-roh!

Feel cheated? Turn the box over and read: “Some settling may occur.” What the manufacturers are trying to say is this: We filled this box to the brim with good stuff! Honest! But afterward the stuff got all shaken together, and it settled. But, trust us, it’s still a full box!

Really? A full box? Hey, boss, it no looka full to us! “Full” is full, half empty ain’t full! And yet, the cereal company plainly states on each box that at one time it was full. (Sure….) But what about now? The label further states that the cereal company actually knew in advance that “some settling” would occur! For shame! Such wanton — and calculated — neglect. Why can’t these companies fill the box, shake it down, fill it some more, let that settle, and then top it off? Imagine the joy of opening a box of Fruit Loops and actually finding it FULL! What a thing to behold, a box brimming with a breakfast bounty!

Yeah, we know, some things in life just can’t be helped — such as the law of gravity. Still, that half-full box can give one pause to ponder the great mysteries of the Universe. And the Creator of the Universe knows this! In fact, our Heavenly Father understands our disappointment over such things. Which is why He’s careful when supplying His many gifts, talents and blessings. He’ll never give us half of anything! He fills the “cup” till it’s running over — and He takes special precautions to prevent settling during “shipping”!

Read the back of the box (of God’s promises). The “label” — that would be the Bible — plainly states: “…Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give … will be used to measure what is given back to you.” (Luke 6:38 TLB)

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A Fabulous Furry Fable! (Encouragement for Creators)

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Here’s the tale of a talented natural scientist, conservationist and wildlife artist, who wrote and illustrated a whimsical little book which no publisher wanted.

Helen Potter was born in 1866, into a prosperous Unitarian family. As a child, Helen and her younger brother Walter played with a menagerie of small animals that included rabbits, squirrels and other wildlife. The two frequently studied the shapes and habits of their furry friends, and soon began to sketch them. This marked the beginning of Helen’s love of nature and the countryside, and it later shaped both her education and her avocation.

Helen privately studied languages, literature, and history with her governess, but natural science became her passion. She spent hours illustrating insects, mushrooms, and fossils she found. She eventually graduated to painting a variety of animals, both real and imagined, in watercolors. During her early twenties, Helen realized she could earn money by printing and selling greeting cards featuring her artwork, so she produced a series of color Christmas cards adorned with her illustrations of mice and rabbits. A year or two later, she realized she could illustrate children’s books.

In September 1893, while vacationing in Scotland, Helen wrote a letter to one of the children of her former governess, a young boy named Noel, who’d been ill. When she ran out of things to tell Noel, she started telling him a story about four little rabbits and their adventures. Helen liked her impromptu story, and in 1900, she decided to revise the tale and try to place it with a publisher. She had definite ideas regarding the size of the book, as well as how the text and illustrations should be laid out; so she created a little homemade booklet of the story, complete with her watercolors of cute rabbits, to promote her ideas to potential publishers.

Helen approached every book company she could think of — including the firm of Frederick Warne. They all said NO! Warne and Company was more eloquent, though: we don’t want your “bunny book”! Following a year of rejections, Helen decided to publish her little book herself, in a very limited black and white edition which she distributed among her friends and family, who in turn shared the book with a few of their own friends. Eventually, an old friend of Helen’s family saw the book, and asked if he might try to find a publisher.

He made the rounds of all the major publishing houses, encountered the same disinterest, and ended up back at Frederick Warne & Company, where L. Leslie Brooke, a prominent children’s book artist who worked for Warne, saw Helen’s self-published book and recommended it to his employers. After months of stalling, Warne finally, and perhaps even grudgingly, agreed to publish the book — in color and according to Helen’s specifications — but only in a small print run. So, on October 2, 1902, nearly a decade after she’d conceived an entirely new type of fable, one featuring anthropomorphic animals who still retained the appearance and characteristics of real animals, Helen’s children’s book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was finally published.

Helen Beatrix Potter’s little book was an immediate success, and quickly went through five additional printings to meet the demand for what ultimately became the first in a series of 23 fabulous furry fables. Our personal favorites are The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester.

More than a century later, the entire series is still in print, still popular, and Frederick Warne is still the publisher of these very profitable books. And The Tale of Peter Rabbit recently provided the inspiration for a hit movie. Not bad for a “bunny book” and it’s sequels!

“Behold, I am doing a new thing…. I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19 ESV)

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