I’m not suggesting nobody ever put orange juice in their cereal on purpose.
I’ve put cake frosting in my coffee; waking up to a conspicuously empty spot in your fridge without the time or money to buy a carton of milk is one of the banal maladies of modern living. Some of us will drink our coffee black. Others seek coffee along the journey to work.
But there will always remain some for whom the grounding power of the morning coffee – or bowl of cereal – can’t be foregone, not even for the twenty or so minutes it would take to acquire coffee on the way to somewhere else.
Intergenerational social conditioning – you could call it “tradition” – has embedded into our minds the power of coffee in allowing us to realize our better selves, whether it’s being a productive cog in the wheel, an approachable date, or a hospitable host.
Breakfast cereal has a likewise sway over many of us who grew up with two working parents and a morning routine that didn’t allow for putting things in toaster ovens and then waiting for them to cool.
For the financially precarious millennial, a bowl of cereal is cheap, tasty, and reminds us that we, in a sense, have always had freedom without power, and we made the most of that too. You can’t let spoiled or absent milk get in the way of your self-medicating nostalgia.
That’s how the terrorists win. Maybe. I think people who use this phrase non-ironically think I’m the terrorist in that scenario.
Like they say: you don’t have to believe in yourself, you just have to believe in someone who believes in you.
Besides, it’s not like your local grocery store had 5 kinds of soy milk back when many of us were developing our formative cereal-eating habits.
Some people, for a number of reasons or circumstances, pour orange juice into their cereal. That isn’t made up.
We did sort of make up a moral panic around this in the mid to late 2010’s. From 2015 to 2017, sites like VICE, Bustle, Thrillist and Buzzfeed were up in arms about it, demanding the public rise up and do something about the deviants who were ruining an American institution.
This is like the prime directive of writing about food on the internet: get people angry about what other people eat.
We do this with pineapple on pizza, with ketchup on hot dogs, with what we should put in guacamole. Sometimes you get an editorial staff that actually finished 1984 all the way through, and you get this:
This kind of content strategy works because this kind of content hurts.
If you’re someone who hates the taste of pineapple, or the combination of sweet and savoury foods, or if you’ve never been to California and can only conceive of pizza as having 5 legitimate toppings, then pineapple on pizza is gross, and the suggestion of its presence will trigger a genuine reaction of aversion.
The fact that what foods we find good and gross is largely based on our background and socio-economic contexts doesn’t change the fact to be in contact with such food, even just to be reminded of it, can cause a feeling of disgust that borders on pain.
Feelings don’t really care about your facts.
The people who write these kinds of articles (or make these kinds of videos) talk about putting cereal in orange juice, or ketchup on a hot dog, to manipulate you, through pain, into groupthink.
You prefer cereal with milk. So do the people you know. It’s normal, you’re normal. If there’s someone out there who can’t relate to you, can’t agree with you on this very basic, universal aspect of daily life – what else might they not share with you?
What kind of a person is so estranged from the familiar comforts of a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch with milk? Do they love their mommas? Do they look both ways before crossing the street? Do they understand that spit is not lube?
“Sucks to this malarkey”, you say, “I just don’t think curry should be an ice cream, it doesn’t make me a fascist.”
And yet: you currently live in a society whose political apparatuses are openly under the sway of white men who believe the 65% of people who develop lactose intolerance in adulthood are lesser races, that men who don’t eat meat are contaminating manhood, and that eating burnt steak with ketchup is good because it owns progressive activists.
I’m sorry I didn’t put a link for that last one – I can only type “…own the libs” so many times into google.
We like to think of fascism as this forbidden tome of knowledge that only those malcontented wizards Dumbledore could not reach with his love would seek out, but the reality is, not only do you need to find a different book to use as your political compass, but that fascism is largely about manipulating the fear of the other, which is so fundamental to American media that even websites known for their listicles about Disney Princesses can drum up site traffic by making up a supposed clandestine trend of people not putting milk in their cereal.
The alt-right was able to take power in America because they were a generation of white supremacists who truly understood the power of marketing and social media. You don’t, despite what I’m sure some guy on Fiverr or Lynda or Skillshare says, need to take a super exclusive web seminar on how to market genocide to kids on Reddit.
Some fascists, the most successful, enjoy lavish dinners at nice restaurants, perhaps enjoying cuisines derived from the very people they wish to destroy.
But your rank and file, the people that are trusted to do the grunt work of wholesale violence, are still in their kitchens, anxiously checking their breakfasts for traces of soy and your cereal for orange juice.
Fascism isn’t just posting racist comments online – sometimes it’s as simple as starting your morning right.
Author: Jetta Rae
Founder of Fry Havoc. Can be found on twitter at @jetta_rae