I'm ensconced in a very special home in Berkeley, California where I'm helping a pregnant mother deal with her 6, 7 and 8 year old children during the "morning rush" - waking up, dressing, breakfast, making school lunches, collecting homework, backpacks, lunchboxes, notebooks, etc. and then out the door to school.
From the moment I walked into this fine family home last Wednesday night - where the children are intelligent, literate and lice-free "A" students at a Jewish Day School in the East Bay - the topic of Panda Puffs has been the one and only source of angst, anger, jealousy, tantrums, and bad behavior in an otherwise serene and healthy family environment.
Based on first-hand observation, I must conclude that in fact, Panda Puffs are the Devil. Who but the Devil could make such otherwise perfect children so insanely bad?
Look at this package - purchased at Trader Joe's - the word "ORGANIC" is prominently featured, as well as a banner promising GLUTEN FREE goodness to the buyer, and of course the Green Packaging sticker, ensuring a responsible, recycling-minded mother wouldn't mind buying this product for her children.
But what happens when Panda Puffs, a.k.a. the Devil, is brought into the home? Instantly, they are ALL the children are interested in. Where are they being hidden? How much of them are left after everyone has received their allotted portion? Did someone have more than someone else? The night I arrived and was introduced to the home, the atmosphere was thick with suspicion. The 19 year old son of a family friend who is staying at the home apparently had the nerve to buy his own package of Panda Puffs and not share them with the children. How dare that be so? The indignation, the outrage of the children continued in sharp asides, whispered accusations and tearful declarations.
Mind you, there were more Panda Puffs produced almost instantly. The new box was declared off-limits to the teenager, as a punative measure ensuring he got the message - which was: DON'T MESS WITH OUR PANDA PUFFS!
This morning, after rising before dawn to cook a hot breakfast of eggs, toast and fried potatoes for the little ones, the youngest girl went absolutely ballistic because she was determined to have Panda Puffs instead of the hot breakfast, as she felt they were somehow owed to her because of previous inequalities of distribution between her siblings and others staying in the home.
I must add at this point that it's clearly the fault of the Panda Puffs and NOT the children. Because other than this one "food" (and I use the word loosely!) item, they are generous, kind, thoughtful children - unusually so, in fact. Warm, literate, not addicted to video or the internet, Kosher, educated children, a pleasure to be around in every way except when the subject of Panda Puffs arise - therefore prompting me to conclude (how could I otherwise?) that Panda Puffs are indeed the Devil, or at least one of his spawn.
And it's not just the children. Upon announcing to the parents that I'm writing a blog post entitled "Panda Puffs Are The Devil," the excellent, responsible and high-quality parents of the children in question embarked upon a 20 minute minutely detailed diatribe about the various cereal options, with or without wheat, sugar, gluten, organic certification, etc. etc. and of course no progress was actually made beyond another opportunity for the sitra acher a.k.a. Panda Puffs to cause two otherwise rational adults to analyze breakfast cereal options with such Talmudic precision so early in the morning. Without coffee. So what other conclusion can I possibly draw about Panda Puffs but that they are indeed the hellish by-blows of the Prince of Darkness?
If a breakfast cereal causes strife in the house, it can't be "good for you," no matter how gluten-free and organic it claims to be. Because strife is never healthy, especially for breakfast.