What Happens in Cedar Rapids Should Really Stay in Cedar Rapids

Earlier this week, I interviewed a business owner for an upcoming feature. I’d lamented to Tara that morning that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the story because it didn’t sound all that exciting. The guy owns a computer sales and repair shop in a small South Dakota town. Yawn, right? Topping it off, this was an update on a story we’d done on him in 2013. Part of a “Where Are They Now?” series, which honestly kinda feels like a fall back whenever we run out of fresh ideas.

But then we got to talking, and it turned into a great conversation! We discussed everything from breakfast burritos to Cedar Rapids, a forgotten 2011 film starring Ed Helms and John C. Reilly. Also, the town where he and his family lived for 13 years before moving back to South Dakota.

“It’s a great movie!” I gushed. “You guys should totally watch it!”

I recommended the film because his son is a big fan of The Office, which of course starred Ed Helms. I sort of forgot that said kid is only 15 and the movie features a prostitute named Bree and plot lines involving autoerotic asphyxiation, cocaine, and illicit sex.

Whoopsie. Probably should have thought that through before making the recommendation. That’s going to make for one uncomfortable family movie night.

Anyhoo. The point is, I should always keep an open mind going into interviews. Even seemingly boring ones can yield surprises. Like the fact that in addition to the computer business, they now own a 1919 Victorian house—painted in so much garish pastel they jokingly called it an Easter egg—that they turned into a coffee shop, against the advice of local business owners, who swore the venture was doomed to fail. Thousands of caramel macchiatos and breakfast burritos later, guess who’s having the last laugh?

This is why I get up in the morning. To talk to interesting people! Well, also because I have to pee, and the cat needs to be fed.

But mostly the interesting people thing.

I’m not a huge breakfast cereal fan, but I do like me some Rice Krispies. A couple of weeks ago I ran out, so I asked Tara to pick me up a new box from the store. When she came home, she plopped down a box of Great Value Rice Crisps.

“What’s this?” I asked, looking the box over suspiciously.

“Sorry, babe,” she replied. “They were out of Rice Krispies. Something to do with a strike by Kellogg’s employees. I’m sure you’ll never be able to tell the difference!”

I was not so sure. The next morning I poured myself a bowl, added milk, and held it up to my ear.

“What are you doing?” Tara asked.

“Umm, making sure these snap, crackle, and pop,” I said. “Duh.”

Luckily, they passed the acoustic portion of the exam. From an audio standpoint, there was no discernible difference between Rice Crisps and Rice Krispies. Satisfied, I dug into my bowl of generic cereal.

And that’s where the similarity ended.

Sure, the store brand snapped, crackled, and popped like nobody’s business. But there was something “off” about the taste. An inferior mouthfeel, if you will. I plucked a kernel from the bowl and held it up to my eye, examining it carefully beneath the bright LED glow of our kitchen light.

“What are you doing now?” Tara asked.

“Umm, checking the puffiness width,” I said. “Duh.”

And that was the difference! A kernel of Rice Krispies is nice and plump. These impostors, by contrast, were thin and flat. Rice “Crisps” my ass!

This brought back a flood of bad memories. It was like the Great Nilla Wafer Fiasco of 2019 all over again. I’d picked up a box of Signature Select Vanilla Wafers from Safeway because they were out of the name brand Nabisco ones, thinking there’d be no difference. And learning the hard way that there was. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery…but not when it comes to cereal or cookies.

When it comes to counterfeiting, stick to currency. Life is too short for skinny Rice Krispies and cookies that are more Wafer than Nilla.

28 thoughts on “What Happens in Cedar Rapids Should Really Stay in Cedar Rapids

  1. Luckily finally Kellog caved and their workers got the majority of their very reasonable demands met. It was ugly for months, but your cereal should return eventually. And good for Tara for not support Kellog!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, the horror of generic brands! I’ve never found the taste comparable to the original and will only buy things like spaghetti or macaroni. My husband came home with store brand mayonnaise one day… it was almost grounds for divorce.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hellman’s is da bomb. Though when we lived down south, Duke’s was acceptable in a pinch. Miracle Whip? No judge would rule against you for cruel and unusual punishment.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s odd how some store brands taste the same (or sometimes, even better than) as the original, while others fall flat. Someone (not me) needs to do a deep dive into this. From what I understand, sometimes the food Does come from the same manufacturer and they just put a store label on it instead. Obviously, that’s not always the case.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, we were reading each other at the same time! Cool.

      We used to do blind taste tests for our food blog all those years ago. By and large, the name brands always won…the only exception being boxed mac ‘n cheese. Audrey and I both preferred Trader Joe’s; only Tara chose Kraft.


  4. I agree with you that when it comes to people [and bloggers] you never know who’ll turn out to be interesting. For instance, I now know more about breakfast cereal than I did before reading this post thanks to you. Not surprised by your finding really, but nice to read confirmation.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m sorry, but I had a giggle thinking of the family movie night you’ve planned for this innocent family.

    I’ve only found ONE generic replacement at the grocery store that never bothers me and that is the generic version of carbonated flavored water; they all taste the same to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I grew up with a mom who only bought the generic cereals so I’ve been conditioned to believe I only deserve Western Family brand level of products. My palate isn’t refined enough to appreciate a brand name cereal but I can definitely taste the difference from one generic brand to the next.

    Liked by 1 person

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