Cajun Style Cheerios
Since we were but wee lads, my brother and myself have often witnessed my mother in the act of burning garlic bread. The scenario is generally the same: she spreads garlic butter on the bread, places it under a broiler, and proceeds to forget about it, getting caught up in some other aspect of preparing the evening meal. In our earlier days the smell of charred sourdough combined with the sight of smoke filled air (even more than usual for Los Angeles) informed us that, yes, once again, mom had burnt the bread. "Mom burnt the bread!" we would gleefully chant. Latter years have added an auditory facet to the experience, as we would hear the dulcet tones of a smoke detector splitting the silence and letting us know that burnt bread was again on the menu. Once I learned about Cajun food and the methods of cooking it, I began referring to the dish as "Cajun Style Garlic Bread--Blackened."
So in an attempt to explore new vistas in the area of overcooked foodstuffs, my mom discovered a way to burn Cheerios. How does one manage to scorch something normally associated with breakfast and being covered with milk? A sordid tale it is. This being such an exciting, fresh concept, it took two days to accomplish.
Day one: as my mother is want to do about once a week, she traveled to the store to purchase various items for the next week's meals. Included was a large box of Honey Nut Cheerios. Upon arriving home, she proceeded to bring the groceries into the house and place them in appropriate spots in the various cabinets in the kitchen. As there is limited counter space in the kitchen, once an item is removed from a grocery bag, it is set somewhere out of the way until its turn to be carefully shelved. Spaces utilized for this maneuver might include the kitchen table, the sink, the stove top, any convenient flat expanse of sufficient surface area. On this particular day of infamy, my mother absentmindedly placed the aforementioned large box of Honey Nut Cheerios in the oven, right beneath the broiler. In the hubbub of placing all the other items in the correct spot, somehow the oven door was closed and the large box of Honey Nut Cheerios was forgotten.
Day two. One of the items purchased the previous day was a box of frozen lasagna. Now one would think at this point: "Ah-ha! I see where this is going!", but I'm afraid one would be mistaken. The lasagna was placed in the upper oven to cook, leaving our friend the large box of Honey Nut Cheerios to wait out its final minutes of existence in the lower oven, where the broiler resides. Lasagna, being a dish of Italian extraction, calls for the addition of garlic bread. My mom began to assemble the ingredients for the bread and, trying to be efficient, turned on the broiler to let it warm up as she prepared the dish. An acrid smell and the sight of smoke pouring from the lower oven suggested that, just maybe, something might be amiss. My mother opened the oven door to discover the flaming remains of the large Honey Nut Cheerios box. A towel quickly thrown over the box ended the conflagration. Surprisingly, while the outer box and inner lining were for the most part "toast" as one might humorously suggest, the Honey Nut Cheerios themselves seemed to be for the most part intact. After the removal of the few that did not survive the ordeal, the remaining Honey Nut Cheerios were transferred to a plastic container.
My mother hoped that, after airing out for a bit, the Cheerios might still be edible. I myself tried a few. In actuality, they didn't taste too bad. They had kind of a smokey flavor, as one would expect given their ordeal. But since the inner bag of the box was made of some sort of man made synthetic material, the Cheerios were probably contaminated with several dozen carcinogenic compounds. Added to this, the longer the Cheerios "aired out", the worst the smell seemed to get. Opening the cabinet door behind which the Honey Nut Cheerios now resided brought back fresh memories of the previous day's adventure as the smell of burnt box-liner-Cheerios was overpowering. Maybe some of the remaining Cheerios had not yet been extinguished, like some of the peat fires in Scotland or the below ground coal fires in Virginia that burn for years and years. In the end it was decided that the days of the Honey Nut Cheerios sharing house space with my mother were at an end. They were spread across the back porch for the various woodland creatures in the area to consume. I jokingly informed my mother that something odd was happening outside as I had observed several deer out there, and they all seemed to be coughing. We are as yet hopeful that the consumption of the myriad toxic substances along with the Honey Nut Cheerios will not lead to the development of mutant hell-beasts in our immediate neighborhood.
As a postscript, I emailed my brother and told him to ask mom about her Cajun Style Cheerios without giving him any other information.