19 November, 2011

Things Europe sucks at, Part I

Europeans do some important things really well. For example: trains. Public health care (although not here in Switzerland). Chocolate. Wine. There's something very important that they completely and utterly fail at though. I am talking, of course, about cereal. The breakfast variety. The cereal aisle in a grocery store is not an aisle. It's a small part of an aisle. There are perhaps 20 different varieties to choose from, if you're lucky, and more than half of those are the popular American sugary cereals. Cheerios can only be found, so I'm told, at the American Store for 10CHF per box. My economics professor even used cereal choice in America as an example in class once, an example which unfortunately was lost on many of the students.

I'm not typically a fan of sugary breakfast cereals. I like hearty, hippy granola cereals that I can add fruit to. The closest thing available here is muesli, a mixture of oats and nuts. But even this has been mostly Americanized now with added sugar, chocolate, and sometimes sugar coated fruit, a la Raisin Bran raisins. I've been trying different the different brands and finally found one that seemed what I was looking for. It had "natural" in the name and the label read "sans sucre." Perfect. The first morning I tried it I realized it appeared to be just oats and something resembling sawdust. No nuts or granola-y stuff. Not what I was looking for, but I was undeterred and poured milk over it to enjoy my new find.

There's a very surreal feeling when you take a bite or a sip of something that you think is something else. Your brain is expecting a specific taste, flavor or consistency and is confused when your mouth reports differently. My brain was expecting some kind of hippy, delicious cereal. What was in my mouth was essentially raw oatmeal. I paused, looked down at the bowl to see what I was eating and realized I might have made a terrible mistake. I'm not sure why but I finished the bowl that morning. I think I might have been in a rush before a full day of classes and needed some form of sustenance to make it through the day.  I certainly didn't enjoy it. I checked the bag later, thinking that surely there were instructions saying to cook in boiling water or something of the sort. Nope, they really eat this with milk here. Now that I've checked that wikipedia page for muesli I see that it does say "raw oats," but the other muesli cereals I had tried either didn't have raw oats or they went down unnoticed with all of the sugar coated nuts and dried fruit.

There's a reason that you cook the oats. It makes them not taste like shit. The stuff was basically horse feed, and I have a feeling even horses would have demanded more refined oats. Thankfully it did not taste anything like Malta, which is essentially liquified horse feed or I would not have continued eating it. I experienced an interesting phenomenon with this particular brand in that the sawdust type substance absorbed all the milk. It didn't matter how much milk I used, I would always end up with a bowl of brown mush with raw oats. I didn't want to throw the whole package of this stuff away so I continued to eat it every morning for no other reason than to not be wasteful. I won't be buying it again though, but I've also gone through most of the European brands of cereals now (I think I've tried 4).

While I currently have nothing in mind for a sequel to "Things Europe sucks at," I'm sure I'll come up with lots more in the future and I envision this being a regular multi-part series.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe you should try making your own granola. It's really easy.