So many of my favourite things have been ruined by improvements. Shredded wheat biscuits breakfast cereal for one.
As a farm kid, we usually breakfasted on oatmeal cooked minutes before breakfast by Mom, or I as the oldest daughter, so it was hot and melted the brown sugar.
But on Saturday mornings, when we kids often slept late, we had to rustle up our own breakfasts.
That’s when we counted two Nabisco shredded wheat biscuits into a cereal bowl, poured hot water over them until they were moist all over, drained the water, and replaced it with cold milk and a sprinkle of white sugar.
I hadn’t eaten shredded wheat for years but these days I occasionally forget to cook oatmeal a day before.
I like to cook enough at a time for several meals, then microwave a portion at breakfast time. Cold cereal like raisin bran or shreddies fail to start my day off right.
So why not Shredded Wheat? The first supermarket had none. The second store had Post Shredded Wheat. Neither the box design nor the company name fit my memory from years ago, but I bought a box hoping the contents would satisfy.
Years back Post bought out Nabisco and there went the Shredded Wheat.
Nabisco packaged the biscuits in layers separated only by a light cardboard strip. Post wraps three biscuits at a time in brown paper resembling paper towels sometimes found in garage mechanics’ washrooms.
The reason for the tight packaging is clear when you tear it open. Unlike Nabisco’s biscuits made of smooth strands of wheat compressed together, Post’s biscuits are loose, crumbly, and make me ask if they sweep the factory floor and add that to the mix.
The taste, too, leaves a lot to be desired. These are bland, lacking the flavour of a Nabisco biscuit.
I’m not alone in my disappointment. Searching online for a source, I found this comment posted by someone who loved Nabisco, too:
“Why is it the good ones often go under and the company that takes over tries to dupe us into thinking the product hasn’t changed? When you know darned well they make double the amount with half the ingredients plus maybe a filler and sell it for twice as much, and it tastes like cardboard no matter what they do!”
Bad enough Quaker Oats “improved” their oats reducing the cooking time from my memory of a good twenty minutes when I was a teen to a current maximum of five minutes simmering.
I leave the lid on the kettle until the oatmeal is cool to be sure it’s sufficiently cooked for best taste and texture.
Another childhood favourite was Prairie Maid Puffed Wheat. It came in a tall bag that weighed almost nothing, but oh, the nutty flavour of the peanut-sized kernels perfect to coat with boiled brown sugar for a homemade confection.
The last time I ate puffed wheat was probably 1962.
My husband and I were returning to the U.S. after vacationing at my family’s Saskatchewan farm.
At the border all we had to declare was a sealed bag of Prairie Maid and the largest pail of Roger’s syrup stores sold, two products unavailable to us in New York city. You can imagine the suspicious looks customs agents gave us, akin to a traveller smuggling cocaine today.
So how to use up these biscuits? Would bluejays swoop and fight over them? Might squirrels carry them off ? Might my dogs choke on them?
Maybe I’ll bury them in the worm bin along with coffee grounds and potato peelings.
Claudette Sandecki pays attention to the most important meal of the day from her home in Thornhill, B.C.