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Book Review: Milking That Crazy Cow: a Century of Cereals edited by Marty Gitlin and Topher Ellis

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Milking That Crazy Cow: a Century of CerealsMilking That Crazy Cow: a Century of Cereals begins with a forward by Alan Snedeker, a creative consultant with a long career in writing jingles, advertising copywriting, and promotion design. He tells brief vignettes about what worked and what didn’t work with cereal branding and promotion in the years that his agency did creative work with cereal companies. This part of the book was the most interesting to me because it put the book into context. Snedeker makes the point that most breakfast cereals in the United States exist only as marketing tools to get kids to make their parents buy them a particular kind of sweetened grain cereal.

The rest of the book indirectly expands on that with an alphabetical listing of cereals sold in the United States in the twentieth century. Most of these cereals did not survive longer than a few years, and many were created in response to events in the surrounding culture (i.e. movie releases and cartoon shows).

Each cereal entry in the book includes (when applicable) previous names of the cereal, the manufacturer, the year it was launched, the year it was discontinued, the main ingredients, varieties of the same brand, related cereals, notable spokescharacters, slogans, factual information, and attempts at witty commentary. Co-editor Marty Gitlin has had a passion for breakfast cereals since age eight (1965), and his corny jokes are a bit flakey at times.

There are approximately 350 cereals chronicled in the book. Gitlin worked with co-editor Topher Ellis and a slew of contributors to the Topher’s Breakfast Cereal Character Guide website. Other information came from the out-of-print Cerealizing America: The Unsweetened Story of American Breakfast Cereal by Scott Bruce and Bill Crawford. The editor’s note requests that any readers who have additional information are welcome to send it to them. They plan to come out with an updated edition that features full scans of the cereal boxes.

This book is a useful reference for cereal or food enthusiasts, particularly those who don’t want to wait until the full color version is released. It would fit in well with personal collections that include trivia books such as the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader series, although I would recommend keeping it on the shelf in the kitchen with your cookbooks.

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