And now, Scary-Crayon presents...
The Stale Cereal Wars
by: Wes

As of today, Scary-Crayon's been around for a whole two years. Given that I write the vast majority of the articles myself and try to post new pieces fairly regularly, admittedly one of the things that I worry about is trying to keep the site content from getting stale. Even aside from the running Random Lunch gag (remember when they consisted of stuff other than cheesy grahams?), I realize that there's only so much a person can say before critiques of stupid cartoons and screencaps of cartoons with questionable captions become repetitive.

So in the interest of keeping the content fresh, I'm always on the lookout for things that might make good review fodder for the site. In fact, I end up with so much of it that a ton of stuff that I photograph, screencap, and purchase never ends up making it onto Scary-Crayon, even though that was my sole intent during these endeavors. I shouldn't say "never" here, though, because it's entirely possible that these things just haven't made it onto Scary-Crayon yet. As long as my hard drive holds up, the digital photos and screencaps may yet be employed in the service of future articles, and since I hardly ever throw anything away, I may someday encounter some of those purchases and post the review that I had planned to write so long ago.

Winter Fruity Pebbles, Fairly Oddparents Limited Edition Cereal, and Peanut Butter Toast Crunch!

Such is the case with the cereals above. Cereal reviews are nothing new, of course (back when I was an undergrad, I found this site to be particularly amusing), but these cereals were different. Winter Fruity Pebbles and Peanut Butter Toast Crunch may not be all that big of a deal to anyone else, but for a guy who had fairly recently started an entertainment website and was looking for stuff to review, they represented excellent potential fodder. Besides, PB Toast Crunch was new then, and that Fairly Oddparents cereal was limited edition wares. Anyway, after eating the majority of the contents, I removed these boxes with about two to three bowls' worth of cereal left in them and stashed them in my room, fully intending to break them out and review them someday. I think I had planned to comment on the fact that Wendell the chef's phone number is on the PB Toast Crunch box so you can call him and tell him what you think. Seriously. For a good time, call 1-800-453-0510.


The point, however, is that I planned to review them. I did. But that was back in the middle of 2004. It's 2006 now. What happened? See above: I put them in my room. Have you seen my room? Here, have another look. That latter link is to an entry that I wrote in my personal blog concerning the December "cleaning" of my room -- and in addition to allowing Bacardi to enter freely and even fall asleep on my floor, my efforts during the Great Room Excavation led to the discovery of those cereal boxes so long ago stashed in a far corner of my humble niche in the world. Note the respective expiration dates: 9/12/04, 12/10/04, and 12/13/04. Yes, these cereals have been expired for over a year!!! But because I bought them with intent to review them, goddamnit, that's just what I'm going to do. But because it's been so long, I'm not just going comment on the taste; I'm going to provide visual aids via photographs of my reaction to the cereals. Yes! So prepare yourselves, 'cause it's time for...

The Stale Cereal Wars
(Yes, I know this is the same image from above, but I really dig those groovy pastel colors.)

Battle 1: Peanut Butter Toast Crunch, expired 12/13/04

Real Peanut Butter in Every Bite...PUP CORN!!! PUP CORN!!! GOD SAVE US ALL!!!

I started with the PB Toast Crunch because, technically speaking, it's the youngest of the cereals and therefore seemed the least likely to kill me. Seemed being the key word there, because holy fuck this was absolutely horrible. If you scroll back and look at the expiration dates on the boxes, you'll note that whereas the other two feature the standard "best when used by" clause, ol' Wendell had to outfit his box with the conditional "better if used by" disclaimer. Now, there are two ways to take that. On the one hand, he could be implying that the cereal is so fucking fantastic that while it'll still be good if you don't get around to eating it by the date printed on the box, it'll be even better if you eat it before December 13th, 2004. On the other hand, given that this is a conditional clause, it's entirely possible that this was a warning -- it's better if this cereal used by 12/13/04, otherwise... -- and that he simply neglected to state the latter half of the cautionary advice.

Oh, Wendell, Wendell, Wendell, I wish you had not forgotten to include that very important information, but more than that I wish that you had cut the bullshit and simply written the clear and distinct message that THIS CEREAL IS FUCKING INEDIBLE AFTER 12/13/04 UNLESS YOU ARE A DOG BECAUSE DEAR LORD IT TASTES EXACTLY LIKE PUP CORN. Oh, Pup Corn. I can sincerely say that it's the stuff of nightmares, because I am totally not lying when I say that I have actually had dreams about eating Pup Corn and awoken in tears and ready to retch in the trash can at my bedside. Why is it that peanut butter itself keeps almost indefinitely, but once it gets added to something else it decomposes and becomes the most foul tasting thing on the planet? I'm fully convinced that expired peanut butter products hold the key to the creation of zombies and the destruction of the human race as we know it. The pain of being dead my ass -- what they really did was find a way to make it so those creatures perpetually have the taste of expired PB Toast Crunch and Pup Corn in their mouths and fresh brains are the only thing with a strong enough taste to temporarily overpower it. BRAiNS!

Battle 2: Fairly Oddparents Limited Edition Cereal, expired 12/10/04

Cosmo and Wanda need their little asses kicked.You let me drink... dead blood?!

You know, upon first putting Cosmo and Wanda's wares into my mouth wasn't all that offensive. I thought that perhaps the horrors of PB Toast Crunch/Pup Corn were unique to that cereal, and that the rest of The Stale Cereal Wars would proceed fairly smoothly and without me vomiting all over the kitchen floor. God, then I bit down on the cereal and that illusion flew so far from my mind that I don't even know how I recalled it to type the preceding sentences. Imagine popping what you think is an M&M into your mouth, only to bite down on the sweet candy shell and find that instead of chocolate, the interior of this candy consisted of a dead bug. Not just any dead bug, mind you (certainly not a farm-raised cricket), but one of those dusty, half-eaten dead bugs you find in a cobweb in the corner of your basement. I think I felt like Tom Cruise did right before a young Kirsten Dunst hopped up and slashed his throat -- back in the days before he went totally insane and impregnated Joey Potter and started believing that alien ghosts reside in the bodies of all humankind. But you know something? If he'd tasted what I tasted in the Fairly Oddparents cereal, I wouldn't blame him for losing his mind. While it wasn't quite as horrific as PB Toast Crunch/Pup Corn, I can only describe the experience of eating this stuff as being akin to that of licking dust from the stone of the chambers in the catacombs of Sacromonte. You see how the bowl is turned upside down on the Fairly Oddparents box? Yeah, that's exactly what happened with this bowl and the kitchen wastebasket. Awful.

Battle 3: Winter Fruity Pebbles, expired 9/12/04

From winter 2003...!Slightly dusty, but certainly edible.

Given my previous two experiences during The Stale Cereal Wars, to say nothing of my earlier forays into the consumption of dry goods well past their prime, I was scared. True, the previous cereals were over a year past their expiration dates as well, but the Winter Fruity Pebbles had several months on even them. Also, note that these are Winter Fruity Pebbles. When were they due to expire? September of 2004. The last time I checked, Winter Fruity Pebbles were a seasonal deal -- and September clearly takes place in autumn. The order of the seasons dictates that winter 2004 had yet to arrive, which means that these cereals were from the previous winter. Winter 2003. Yes, this cereal was over two years old! I trembled as I raised a handful of it to my lips.

Luckily, however, it wasn't that bad. It wasn't that bad at all. While there was a slight aftertaste to the cereal, as if it had been nearby during a countertop dusting, it certainly didn't make me want to puke my guts out or saw off my tongue with a rusty blade. It didn't make me think of dying and craiving moist grey matter or of slapping on a pastel-colored swastika and engineering the genocide of all fairy godparents. It caused me to raise an eyebrow and maybe frown a bit. But mostly, it made me want to reach back into the bowl and try some more to see if the cereal was toying with me, giving me the freshest pebbles first before tricking me with the really nasty stuff deeper within. But it was tolerable all around. Winter Fruity Pebbles, the oldest of the participants in The Stale Cereal Wars, even after 15 months, had somehow managed to largely maintain the quality of its sugary flavor.

Even having tasted them all and being fairly certain of the winner, however, I was determined to eat the entire contents of each bowl in order to be absolutely certain that there had been no mistakes. What if, by some strange twist of fate -- and not unlike my experience at California Tortilla, during which my chosen burrito was apparently swapped for a different variety -- some of the PB Toast Crunch in Wendell's box had actually been replaced by Pup Corn??? Given my extreme reaction to its terrible taste, I could totally see someone playing a trick on me along those lines. And what if Cosmo and Wanda had placed a playful curse on their cereal, causing the first bite to taste like dead bugs and spider saliva but all subsequent bites to taste like the ambrosia on which the gods dine from their mountain home? As they say, stranger things have happened.

The TriForce of Stale Cereal."*Hurk*"

Now, let me remind you of my tolerance for disgusting food. Of all of the articles in the Foodstuffs section of Scary-Crayon, never once have I not eaten the entirety of an intended experiment or undertaking. While I have gagged a few times in the course of these endeavors, despite what I may have written in order to emphasize the horrible taste of various things, I have never actually feared that any of them would make me vomit. Even the dreaded Pup Corn did not cause me to fear that the contents of my stomach would rise -- though that is probably because I only tried one piece of it. In attempting to eat an entire bowl of its taste equivalent, however, I lost it. Not my lunch, because I stopped before that happened, but my resolve and will to continue. I dumped the bowl and the contents of the entire box and moved on to the Fairly Oddparents. Here as well, my throat began to convulse, and I was forced to abandon the task or spew chunks across the kitchen floor. I felt sick and ashamed.

Winner: Winter Fruity Pebbles.Only the Winter Fruity Pebbles proved manageable. Also, as I chewed and swallowed, the dusty taste that I had noticed before all but vanished -- and suddenly, magically, it was as if I were eating a fresh bowl of Fruity Pebbles. Not only did I finish the bowl, but I actually saved the box for future consumption. Learning from my previous mistake, however, I did not return it to my room, but relegated it to the cereal pantry. Because that is where I look for cereal to eat in the future. And because I intend to finish this box of cereal that first came into my possession in winter 2003, the Winter Fruity Pebbles have finally ended up in their rightful place.

As such, the Winter Fruity Pebbles stand victorious in The Stale Cereal Wars. Despite being the oldest of the group, their fruity valor survived through the years and enabled them to take the prize. It's no wonder Barney is always trying to steal bowls from Fred! Perhaps he knows that the Ice Age is coming, and that while other people who stash cereal away will soon find their food stores utterly useless, he will be able to survive on Fruity Pebbles for several years into the frozen era. Maybe Barney was smarter than he looked.

So, have we learned anything from The Stale Cereal Wars? Only that, for the most part, they fucking mean it when they put those expiration dates on boxes. (Take note, budding chefs -- you can learn a lot from accredited online culinary college courses, but all that knowledge will be for naught if you don't remember to check the expiration dates of ingredients before using them in your concoctions!) However, it's still worth noting that these warnings remain somewhat vague. They never write, for instance, "best if eaten by" a certain date, nor do they state the reality that the cereal will taste like slain vampires, complete with wood splinters from the stake, if you happen to wait too long before deciding to get yourself a bowl. And you may have noticed that I didn't use milk during The Stale Cereal Wars. This is because I know firsthand what stale cereal does to milk, and there's no sense in wasting good milk because cows work hard to make it for us. But back to these disclaimers -- instead of referring to the cereal being eaten, they always speak of using it. Using it for what? It may be best eaten by the date printed on the box, but if you want to use it for another task -- say, inducing vomiting -- you may want to wait a year or so before breaking it out. If that's your angle, though, you might as well use your finger** and spare yourself the disgusting experience of eating stale cereal. If you don't, you may find yourself caught in...

The Stale Cereal Wars
**Scary-Crayon does not endorse nor encourage bulimic or anorexic behavior.

(That's right! The stale food "fun" is not yet over!)

I mentioned above that I found these boxes of cereal that I had intended to review so long ago while cleaning my room. However, boxes of cereal were not the only foodstuffs that I uncovered beneath the action figure and magazine rubble. In addition to a bunch of Christmas candies (again circa 2003; expect to see them on the site someday), I found a box of chicken flavored snack crackers that I bought at the dollar store one day with intent to feature on the site -- because while I guess they've been around for quite some time, the very concept of chicken flavored crackers just strikes me as being exceedingly weird. But in the course of working on other content, I totally forgot about these crackers, and hidden beneath the junk in my room they quietly passed their expiration date on 6/6/04 and began the complex process of becoming stale and inedible.

"Chicken flavored snack crackers???"Bacardi says, "Hook me up!"

Inedible to human tastebuds, that is! While I found these now hard and dusty-tasting crackers to be utterly revolting (why is it that so many stale foods taste like fucking dust? ugh!) my puppy pal Bacardi didn't seem to mind at all! Not only did he happily eat a piece of one cracker, but enjoyed it so much that he came back for seconds. (Click here for a video clip!) He probably would've kept coming back as long as I kept breaking off pieces, but even though these foul-tasting tidbits appealed to his doggy tastebuds I couldn't bring myself to give him any more. I guess I shouldn't be so shocked, though, since he eats Pup Corn. Willingly. Bloody hell.

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