I’d been handling the utter implosion of life as we knew it reasonably well. Even though I had to give up some of my favorite things—like eating at the bar of a restaurant, basic cosmetic upkeep, friends in three dimensions—I tried to find the silver linings wherever possible. That is, until they took away my fucking Grape-Nuts.
Grape-Nuts was a staple in every one of our Instacart orders for months until they just stopped coming. We switched grocery stores, and still no sign. When I’d type it into our order, Grape-Nuts Flakes would come up—just to taunt me, because no one actually eats that garbage. It wasn’t until I resorted to searching for Nutty Nuggets, the bullshit generic version of the real thing, and realized that those too were gone, that I knew I was in trouble.
Then it happened. A frantic Google search turned up the dreaded headline “Grape-Nuts Cereal, A Supermarket Mainstay is No Longer Easy to Find,” and I just about lost it. Not just because I realized for the very first time in my life that Grape-Nuts is hyphenated, but because it happened right when I had hit my own personal pandemic low point.
As a kid, our pantry was filled with the most inadvisable array of diabetes-inducing cereals — Cookie Crisp, Sugar Smacks, Fruit Loops and Cap’n Crunch among them — it’s as if my mom’s only purchasing criteria was whether it had a mascot or contained a prize. As you might’ve guessed, we didn’t have “rules” in our house. I didn’t get “grounded” or “punished” or “brush my hair very often” or “get a training bra until I was a B cup”—so it was a free-wheeling situation in general. Ours was the place where all of our friends could freely smoke cigarettes, drink Big Gulps and eat forbidden cereal. But still, for reasons I’m still trying to understand, it was only ever Grape-Nuts for me.
Trust me, it wasn’t out of any sort of health consciousness. At that point in my life, I considered a McDonald’s Fillet-O-Fish a healthy choice, particularly when combined with a small rather than large order of fries. My affinity for Grape-Nuts was something altogether different. It was real. It was profound and it was lasting.
Initially, I think it made me feel mature to choose Grape-Nuts over the plethora of colorful, cartoonish, cavity-inspiring options at my disposal. I mean, how many other six year-olds would voluntarily eat cereal marketed to and by the elderly?
But it turned out to be more than a stunt: I was immediately captivated by its seductively nutty crunchiness. There was something oddly satisfying and quite literally grounding about the sensation of having what felt like a pile of rocks in the pit of my stomach at the completion of each bowl. And I never held a grudge when an errant nugget would get lodged in my gums or caught in my trachea for hours on end, because I accepted them, warts and all.
So when lockdown began and I took to eating my feelings with exponential fervor, it made perfect sense to turn to my lifetime ride or die, Grape-Nuts. That familiar friend whose generic branding has barely changed in 40 years was my comfort and stability. I’d pull out the box and a carton of milk and just keep replenishing until I could barely stand. It brought order to the chaos. I’d even sprinkle it on my yogurt, ice cream or Nutella spoonfuls as a testament to its textural splendor. Clearly, I wasn’t alone.
Among the many things this pandemic has taught me is the fact that this country is teaming with Grape-Nuts fanatics. I’d always assumed I was the only freakish kid who would rebuff Snap, Crackle & Pop, Toucan Sam and the Trix Rabbit for a geriatric pitchman named Euell Gibbons, so I figured there couldn’t possibly be many of us left above ground. Discovering that the exact opposite is true was both exasperating and affirming.
So for now I will sit tight, remain loyal and wait for their top-secret supremely-awesome proprietary production process to ramp back up. In the meantime, I might just nab that last $46 box on Amazon to tide me over. ❏
Lisa Feldsher is a writer and co-founding partner at Mind Over Media PR. Her work has been featured on HuffPost, Kveller and Medium, among other outlets.