Forget about reading the back of the box while you eat your favorite breakfast cereals. The Great American Cereal Book (Abrams Image, $19.95), from North Olmsted author and sportswriter Marty Gitlin and co-author Topher Ellis, covers the entire history of the morning staple with more than 350 images of obscure cereal boxes and memorabilia. Gitlin's love of cereal started as a child, when he vowed to try one bowl of every kind on the market, and he's poured that passion into this book. "I tried to bring across my love for cereal and the sense of fun that I think it brings a lot of people," he says. We asked Gitlin about the book and some of his personal favorites.
Q. How did your quest to try every
A. It went well. My mom was very cooperative. She dutifully went and bought any cereal I requested, and I maintained my rule well into my teenage years to eat at least one bowl of every cereal that came on the market. When you're 8 or 9 years old, those are the kind of things you take pride in.
Q. What's the strangest kind you've come across?
A. There was a cereal in 1903 called Tryabita (pronounced "try a bite a"), and it was celery-flavored. What marketing genius came up with the idea of having a celery-flavored cereal is just beyond me. I can't even fathom the idea of it.
Q. What's your favorite character created to market cereal?
A. I happen to like the Trix Rabbit. He's so passionate for his cereal that it's just unbelievable. In fact, in 1976 and 1980, they had a campaign where kids were allowed to vote on whether they should give the Trix Rabbit a bowl of Trix, and the benevolent children of America voted both times to let him have a bowl.
Q. If you could only eat one cereal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A. Fruit Loops are my favorite, and always really have been. I like the fruity flavor to it, and my favorite cereals are generally the pre-sweetened ones. If I were on a desert island, I would be really glad to have a whole case of Fruit Loops, although the milk would be problematic, I suppose.
Q. What was the first cereal that you remember eating?
A. I don't know. I know that my favorite cereal when I was a kid was Jets. They were basically sweetened Cheerios, and they turned into different shapes. At first they were just round, and then they became little jets and stars as they got wet. I thought that was kind of a cool cereal. I was disappointed when it went off the market in 1973.
Q. What cereal is in your cupboard right now?
A. Well, I have like 35 cereals in the house. I have them organized into three teams. I have the first team, which is up in my regular cupboard, which are my favorite cereals. My second team is down in the basement and ready to come up. Lastly, my wife and kids have cereals that they like best that are in the other cupboard, and that's like my farm team.