A fair amount of material was edited out of the original Wheat Belly manuscript for a variety of reasons and therefore never saw the light of day.
I thought it’d be fun to reprint some of the outtakes here, like seeing Russell Crowe botch up his lines and stumble over the camera cables.
Deep within the haze of my childhood memories, buried beneath recollections of nerdy high school days, a marriage gone sour, and a brother-in-law midlife crisis involving duct tape, three members of the local PTA, and a VW bus, are images of the mornings I sat with my two sisters at our kitchen table in suburban New Jersey, each of us slurping a bowl of Trix®, Lucky Charms®, or Fruit Loops® cereal, still recovering from a late night of Bewitched and Mission Impossible.
We were virtual connoisseurs of breakfast cereals, having tried them all, even mixing different brands to come up with unique combinations. Digging into bowls of crunchy sweetness, the first few scoops were undeniably the best before the loops, puffs, or stars got soggy, leaving you with a few floating stragglers. Tipping the milk into your mouth at the end was worth the wait, sweet and colored the same as the cereal, brown for Cocoa Puffs, pinkish-purple for Fruity Pebbles. Along with pretending to brush our teeth and comb our hair, breakfast cereal was part of the morning routine before school for us and millions of other American kids, an experience complete with “Free toy inside!”
Kelloggs®, General Mills, and Post could do incredible things with just wheat flour, cornstarch, sugar, and a little food coloring. Add some clever packaging, a loony cartoon character—“I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!”—and a free this-or-that offer, pour some milk on it, wiggle your nose like Elizabeth Montgomery and voilá: 20th century breakfast.
As I got older, there always seemed to be a breakfast cereal that suited my shifting tastes. After a few years I wanted the cooler Cap’n Crunch or Cheerios. At 18, I was ready to graduate to Raisin Bran, then to Shredded Wheat.
The Great American Processed Food experience didn’t end at breakfast, of course. For school lunch my Mom usually packed peanut butter or bologna sandwiches, the prelude to cellophane-wrapped Hoho’s, Devil Dogs, or Scooter Pies. Sometimes, she would throw in a few Oreos or Vienna Fingers, too. For supper, we loved the TV dinners that came packaged in their own foil plates, allowing us to consume our battered chicken, corn muffin, and apple Betty while watching Get Smart.
But how long can such a wheat flour-cornstarch-sugar nirvana last?
Quite a while, as it turns out. Certainly longer than a sugar-crazed ADHD outburst. It did become fashionable, however, in the 1970s to demonize the sugar content of these foods. (Some breakfast cereals aimed at kids were 40% sugar.) In response to distressed parents’ urgings, manufacturers reduced sugar content, transforming Sugar Pops and Sugar Frosted Flakes of the 1950s into Corn Pops and Frosted Flakes in the 1980s. Because of the alarming explosion of childhood obesity, the pressure to reduce sugar content of breakfast cereals continues even today, with Kelloggs® declaring its intention to reduce sugar content to single-digit (gram) quantities per serving. So American breakfast cereals of the 21st century are a mix of wheat flour, cornstarch, high-fructose corn syrup, and food coloring with less sugar.
Does that solve the problem?
Taking some of the sugar out of breakfast cereal is like taking some of the fizz out of Fizzies® or some of the marinara out of marinara sauce. A similar exercise occurred in the 1970s, when a call was sounded to take the tar out of cigarettes, yielding the “low-tar” variety. Lung cancer in people who smoke increased, despite 97% of all current smokers puffing on the low-tar variety. You might surmise that smoking, like botulinum toxin, is such a nasty thing that making it less bad does not make it good. Or that tar was not the main culprit in the first place.
So, I believe, will it go with breakfast cereals. There’s more to breakfast cereals than sugar and, like cigarettes, no matter what you rename it, how you spin the marketing, increase or decrease various ingredients, regardless of what you say during Congressional testimony . . . it’s still breakfast cereal.
But what would breakfast cereal be without wheat?