Renaissance Column

SEPTEMBER 1998 | VOL. 2, NO. 4



Top Ten Signs of Football Season
Geography Quiz


Kids Say the Strangest Things


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"Laugh and the world will laugh
with you."



Great Moments in American History


This afternoon I had a lunch-like snack, which is not a real lunch but an incredible facsimile. It's the kind of thing that you learn about in college when you want to eat, but want something immediately that requires no effort. This is how you discover things like "Pasta with Salad Dressing" and afterward "Emergency Medical Care."

The process is known as "Creative Cooking." Or at least that's what people tend to write on the hospital admission form. It's one of the major exports of America, along with people named Ed, and is based on the fact that a lot of us tend not to have a tremendous amount of patience in the area of cooking. It's the kind of impatience where heating something up in the microwave gets compared to the Jurassic Period. Or the Department of Motor Vehicles. One of the two.

But from this impatience has come great ingenuity. Not to mention whole new fire safety laws. From this impatience has developed the thinking that you can cook something faster in an oven by simply quadrupling the suggested heat setting. Which I believe is the kind of thinking that began America's early work with rocketry. After all, more than a few people have looked at the rocket boosters on the space shuttle and thought that they've found the future of barbecuing.

The lunch-like snack that I chose on this occasion was cereal, which is the mother of all quick meals. It might also be the father of modern architecture -- I'm not sure. In grade school I remember learning about lots of different people who were considered the fathers of various neat stuff. However, the one thing that all the fathers had in common was that they were dead, which really didn't inspire you to follow in their footsteps. In fact it really made you consider a career in plumbing. Unless of course there was a father of modern plumbing. In which case you might as well become a famous artist because they were all dead too, but at least all they had to do was play with paint.

Cereal primarily consists of simple grains, which, when put in a big box, suddenly go up in value. At least, the grains themselves don't really cost that much, but once the grains are put in a box they suddenly become something you need to take a loan out on. For a while there, a lot of people were deciding to save some money by passing over the cereal and instead buying a Hyundai, which I think also dissolved in milk. Today when I poured my cereal into my bowl I noticed what looked like pieces of plastic in the cereal. For a second I thought that this particular cereal company was experimenting with new ingredients and that they had moved on from raisins and ventured into the world of aluminum siding. But my wife, Michele, told me that what I was looking at were pieces of sugar.

Sugar is a key ingredient in cereal and is the primary way that they get kids to smile for the pictures on the boxes. That and threats against their families. The cereal companies put in lots of sugar not just to improve the taste of their product, but also to see who might have a heart condition. After all, sugared cereal tends to get your blood pumping. In extreme cases it may have even been used as fuel for racing cars. This is because cereal is "artificially sweetened" or "high octane." In fact scientists warn people not to mix some cereals with harmful substances, like fire. I think in the case of sugared cereals, regular milk is also considered a harmful substance because sugared cereal combined with regular milk will create something sweeter than cheese cake dipped in fudge.

Regular milk is not the kind that's nonfat or 2 percent, but the kind that's about one step away from sucking a cow. In fact, to prepare it they might just stick the carton right up against the udder. This is of course another example the kind of impatient ingenuity that's made this country great.

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