On Thanksgiving of last year, I became blisteringly sick. I was well enough on the holiday proper to prepare (with Hook!) a turkey, dressing, two relishes, and two pies, but I crashed so hard after dinner ended and the Chinet tableware was swept into awaiting trash bags. I spent the next four days on Hook’s couch, doing little else but sipping diet ginger ale, checking facebook, and adjusting the layers of blanket enwrapping me. Bravo became my constant companion. I may or may not have started a brief stint playing “Cafe World.” On day three of my terrible illness, Hook asked if he could make me popcorn. When I declined his offer, Hook knew that I was seriously ill.*
Near the end of this weekend of woe, my hunger returned full-force. Still feverish, I walked to the grocery store and wandered the aisles, glassy-eyed with awe of all the choices. Udon noodles! Rice milk! Oreos! Veal! How would I decide what to make for dinner? (Note: I did not make Oreos and veal.)
I craved only two things: salami and Cap’n Crunch’s “Oops! All Berries” cereal. The former was easy to find. The latter was a boondoggle. Despair struck in the cereal aisle of Lucky Market. I first thought that perhaps I was overlooking the cereal; it had, after all, been years since I purchased it. But there beside the regular Cap’n and the Peanut Butter Crunch was a void — a figurative one, but its metaphoric quality made it no less real to this hungry, cranky, mucous-laden waif.
I settled for regular Cap’n Crunch. “Settle” is not a euphemism. Who actually likes those little beige pillows of grain? Bring on the berries! In a pinch, the original variety of Crunch sated my hunger. I picked around the pillows and ate all the Crunchberries, and then the uneaten cereal sat on top of Hook’s fridge for the next four months until finally, acknowledging that I was never going to finish the box, I threw the leftovers out.
In a way, I’m surprised that my love of Oops! All Berries had a chance to take root; as I’ve mentioned, “sugar cereals” (as they were classified) were semi-forbidden in my home. Somehow, Oops! slipped beneath my parents’ radar — on occasion, at least. Ali and I used to sit in the dining room on Saturday mornings, pouring ourselves massive bowls of the tri-colored berries and watching reruns of “The Hurricanes,” a cartoon show about a soccer team. If it happened that we woke up later in the morning (i.e., after 8:00 AM), we’d spy on our neighbors from the Bay windows in our dining room, critiquing which pajamas they wore to pick up their newspapers from the paper boxes, their unbrushed hair.
Oops! All Berries wasn’t just a breakfast food. Ali and I would often eat the cereal as a pre-dinner snack. I’d fill a clear glass ramekin and, with sys, make myself comfortable on the floorspace in front of the TV, where we’d watch Geraldo and Sally Jesse and Ricki Lake until one of my parents came home and asked us to turn the trashy TV off, please.
Yes, Ali and I loved our Oops! All Berries. The cereal represented not only a permissible entry into a world of banned foods, but the best kind of sibling solidarity: the kind formed through dozens of hours of talk-show viewing, gossipmongering, and just plain hanging out. In time, Oops! All Berries became a tangible symbol for Ali’s and my indestructible sibling bond.
In August of this year, Ali came to visit and brought a literal suitcase of souvenirs for Hook and me. (Note: Ali is the most generous sibling of all time. You all should be jealous!) Among these was a bag of strawberry-flavored Kellogg’s MiXit cereal, suspiciously similar in appearance to Oops! All Berries.
“Try it,” Ali raved. “They’re just like Crunchberries, I swear.”
Months later, I heeded my sister’s advice. (Note: despite the passage of months between my receipt of the cereal and my actual tasting of the cereal, the product remained fresh. I’d kept the bag sealed, y’all!) I gingerly opened the foil baggie of pink puffs. The cereal looked and smelled indistinguishable from Oops! All Berries. I nibbled one puff, then another. Even the Crunchberries’ kibble-like density was perfectly reproduced in these faux-strawberry flavored orbs. At long last, I had an approximation of my beloved childhood treat! Once again, I filled a clear glass ramekin almost to the spilling point. I settled myself in my Mission chair, cracked open a beer, and crunched.
Since my initial drafting of this piece, I’ve learned that Quaker has reintroduced Oops! All Berries to the US market. Whaaaaaaat? Don’t believe me? The information is here. To date, I’ve checked the cereal aisles at two stores near me; neither carries Oops! Don’t worry: I’ve contacted “Cap’n Crunch” (via the “Contact Us” feature) for assistance in locating a retailer near me who carries the product. Fingers crossed, I’ll have my hands on a box of berries in a week or two.
* Popcorn — homemade popcorn with lots of salt — is one of my Top Five All-Time Favorite Foods. I’ll never turn down an offer of popcorn — unless I’m deathly ill, as this example shows.