Friday, December 11, 2009

Cereal Killer


I like cereal.

I like it at practically any time of day: early morning, obviously, but also as a late night snack or an insomniac's comfort. I have even tried the 'cereal twice a day and one proper meal 2-week diet', and didn't find it too onerous. I'm a bit hard-core with my choice of cereal, and almost always eat the same: organic sugar-free muesli with a few added linseeds (you can never have too much fibre), topped with a light sprinkling of Special K red berries, all gently basking in a puddle of cold semi-skimmed. I use the same bowl, and the same spoon, every time.

My cereal habit started young, my first love being Weetabix. Weetabix with sugar and milk; with banana; with cold stewed rhubarb, or gooseberries. I didn't even mind that it went soggy within about 10 seconds. I progressed through fruit and fibre and Alpen, with a brief flirtation with Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. Now it's just the above concoction, with occasional seasonal changes - fresh fruit chopped on top, or porridge when it's freezing outside. This constant in my life is very comforting when I consider a healthy lifestyle - at least one part of my routine is definitely under control.

Except that it isn't. According to some nutritionists, cereal is Of the Devil and Definitely Going to Kill You. Even if the worst offenders are avoided - those sugar-coated pretend-chocolately affairs - the onslaught of so much wheat into the system will build up intolerance, and predispose one to type II diabetes. Allegedly. Your best option is porridge, which is a slower-burning grain in the body (although once the salt / sugar / syrup / chocolate drops required to make it taste like anything other than cardboard have been added, it probably no longer rates as a healthy choice).

So what else to eat, given that I really am rather peckish in the morning? Eggs (now apparently OK again)? - no time. Toast? - see cereal. Bagels / croissants / pop-tarts / muffins? - see toast. Apparently we're all supposed to eat natural yoghurt, preferably live and organic, with fresh fruit. Although I am allowed to keep my linseeds (whoopee). Do these people have any concept of what I do in my day? That sort of breakfast would get me half-way to work, whereupon I would have to stop walking and have a little lie down. In the road.

The first time I had any concept whatsoever that other people on the planet didn't choose between cereal, toast or eggs for breakfast was a trip to Greece when I was 9, where I ate a piece of fruit cake and a slice of ham each day. Still, I thought such affectations were for weirdy foreigners, who presumably hadn't yet invented Shreddies. When I was about 14 I read 'Rebecca' by Daphne du Maurier, and was fascinated by the scene where Maxim carefully peels a tangerine for his breakfast with a silver knife. How exotic, I thought! (Don't think tangerines had reached Birmingham in the mid eighties; we were still on satsumas). I imagined that one day I too would be grown-up and elegant and eat a tangerine for breakfast. But Max de Winter probably never had to do half of what I have to do to get out the house, leg it up the hill and do a busy clinic of a morning. One tangerine would barely be enough to fuel me as far as the end of our front path.

Think I'll stick to cereal.

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