November 3, 2017

FOOD WEEK | On James Harden, and Why Cereal Isn’t a Breakfast Food

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In late September 2016, Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni announced that his star player, James Harden, would be switching positions to play point guard. This seemed like a peculiar decision at first. Harden had played shooting guard his entire career up to that point, and was just coming off a season in which he did an awful lot of shooting, averaging 29 points and finishing third in the league in usage rate. Running an entire offense and getting teammates involved is a difficult thing to just pick up on the fly.

But Harden did it. He not only led his team to the third best record in the NBA, but he did so while leading the entire league in assists! And he didn’t just rack up assists just because he had the ball in his hands the whole game — he actually proved to be a pinpoint distributor. He threaded bounce passes through the smallest holes that always popped right up into the intended player’s hands. He fired 30-foot cross-court lasers that hit teammates squarely in the jersey numbers. It turns out that James Harden had the natural gifts of court vision and passing accuracy that few players possess. He was born to be a point guard, and he had spent seven years of his career being something else.

Why do I mention James Harden in an article categorized under “Food Week”? Well, he’s just one example of someone or something masquerading as one thing when he is actually something else. There are many other examples. Rick and Morty is actually a silly, clever comedy masquerading as a deep, thoughtful show. Donald Trump is actually a kindergarten bully masquerading as President of the United States. Oatmeal raisin cookies are actually just circular granola bars masquerading as cookies.

Which brings me to cereal, a perfect dessert food masquerading as a breakfast food.

A controversial statement, for sure, but one that you’ll soon realize is correct. Let’s first look at this from a nutrition perspective. Breakfast is widely considered the most important meal of the day because, according to many nutritionists, it jumpstarts your metabolism and helps your body regulate blood glucose concentrations, along with some other bulls***. It’s not that cereal with milk doesn’t accomplish this (additionally, many cereals contain essential fiber). It’s just that, even if you eat whole grain cereal with fat-free milk, which most people certainly do not, the milk-cereal combo still seems to have a nutritional makeup that is just as close to an ice cream sandwich as it is to other healthy breakfast options such as fruit, nuts, or an omelette. And if you’re talking about Lucky Charms with whole milk, forget about it you might as well be eating a f’real from Nasties.

Along those same lines, cereal really doesn’t hold up as a breakfast food when you consider its flavor. If you’re going with something like Cascadian Farm Organic Hearty Morning Fiber, which tastes like cardboard, then what’s the point of even eating? And if you’re going with a sugary brand of cereal, then it’s probably going to taste something along the lines of a store-bought pastry you buy for dessert when you remember at the last minute that you have guests coming over for dinner – a totally inappropriate taste to start off your day.

But a totally appropriate taste to satisfy your sweet tooth a few hours after dinner! You can’t find me a better late night snack than a heaping bowl of Cocoa Krispies in milk. It’s crunchy and refreshing at the same time, and it comes with a bit a free chocolate milk at the end if you eat slowly enough and you get the cereal-milk ratio correct to begin with (a skill that requires years of experience and practice). Plus, there’s the added bonus that, if you’ve eaten cereal for breakfast just about every day for the first 18 years of your life, then your body is conditioned to wake up on the sight of cereal. Eating a bowl of cereal at around 10pm before digging into a long computer science project gives me so much energy that it basically acts as a double shot of espresso.

Cereal has everything you would want in a dessert, but it’s lower in calories than just about every other popular option. It’s time for us to use the wisdom of Mike D’Antoni to inform our eating habits. James Harden was never meant to be a shooting guard, and cereal was never meant to be a breakfast food.