But cereal in America didn't taste the same. Between the extra sweetness of even my favourite old reliables, and the funny taste of the milk - no matter what percentage I got - it tasted weird. The milk here is different from my beloved Avonmore SuperMilk of yore, but I think a major part of the difference can be boiled down to four little letters: HFCS.
When I found out about high-fructose corn syrup, I decided I didn't like the sound of it very much. Call me insular, but I felt it would be better for my palate and my health to try to keep the basics of my diet in the US as much like my Irish diet as I could.
Initially, this was because I didn't want to move home and find that nothing was sweet enough for me any more. Now that I have two small people relying on me for their nourishment (directly and in-), I'm continuing to avoid HFCS as much as I can in our everyday foods. At first I felt that my reasoning was a bit feeble: if I didn't grow up with it, and if they wouldn't get it in Ireland, I don't want them to have it here. Then I read about Michael Pollan's book and discovered that one of his rules for eating is that if your grandmother wouldn't recognise it, it's not food. So I felt vindicated, because I'm pretty sure neither of my grandmothers would have an iota what that sickly sweet stuff was, or what it would be doing in bread, crackers, yogurt, or corn flakes.
I'm not obsessive about what my children eat: they're not allergic to anything, and if there's candy from Easter or Halloween or parties, they can have it; but since Monkey's diet in particular is so limited, I do try to rein him in on the blatantly anti-nutritious goodies while I still can. I've managed to eliminate HFCS from the bread, cereal, crackers, yogurt, ketchup, ice cream, and even the cookies that we buy on a regular basis (the kids don't get the cookies: I do). If Monkey has Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Ritz crackers in school for snack, I'm not going to make a fuss, but I don't buy them for home consumption. When he has chocolate milk, I try to make sure it's the sort without HFCS.
I don't spend hours reading labels: I just find the item I want, and then it becomes part of our regular shopping list. Did you know, for instance, that Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats have HFCS in them, but the Safeway own-brand ones don't? Isn't that strange?
So. (That was just the back story.) As you may know, we like to go to IKEA every once in a while. (Though I must admit that since the buying-things-for-the-new-house frenzy has calmed down, I find fewer excuses to go.) Now, it's not that I think of IKEA as a bastion of health food, but they do make a big deal of their kids' food options. The chocolate milk there is HFCS-free, so that's something, and usually, assuming I could run the gauntlet of ice-cream demands, I would get the children a yogurt each and be happy with a sticky bun for myself.
But lately, it has seemed that every time we go to IKEA, Mabel ends up like a whirling dervish, acting like someone who's an hour past her naptime even when there's still an hour to go. The last time this happened, it finally dawned on me that maybe I should be putting two and two together. The yogurt in IKEA is Trix yogurt: a small pot aimed directly at the jugular of youth, with pink and yellow dairy product together in one HFCS-enhanced sludge. I looked it up when we got home. If you google "Trix yogurt," the first two hits after an ad for "Nutrition to help your kids grow up strong" and some images, are a series of blog posts detailing how horrible Trix really is, how it's a big old pile of nothing good for you complemented by totally unneccesary additives and colourings.
So maybe, just maybe, that's what sets Mabel off like an increasingly intractable rocket each time we go there. It could be the HFCS itself, since she's not used to it, but it's more likely the infusion of Red #40 and Blue #1 as well as the unnamed artificial flavourings.
I'd have been better off letting them have the ice-cream, except that now I want to know what they put in that, and it doesn't come with an ingredients list printed on the cone.