The Sad Story of the Grape-Nuts: How Some Things are Worth Making at Home, and Others are Not.

I was not one of those people who automatically liked Grape-Nuts. As cold cereals go, it is not friendly. These are hard little pellets that look like nothing so much as crumbled bits of hamster poo. They taste like vaguely sweet yeast pellets. But when I was about twenty years old I decided I really liked them and that they were worth the expense — because, for reasons I don’t really understand, they are distinctly more expensive than most of the cold cereals out there. And then I married someone who also likes Grape-Nuts. This means that we’re capable of going through a rather alarming number of boxes of Grape-Nuts in the space of a week. So it’s a splurge. Cold cereal as splurge: a sad state of affairs, but so it goes.
There was a time when I was in an Expect Discounts store and saw Grape-Nuts on sale for $1.50 a box. I bought seven boxes of them. My husband was appalled when he saw that our cabinet had been filled with nothing but Grape-Nuts, but I said, “What’s your problem? They were cheap, and they’ll get eaten!” Which they did, in a shockingly short time frame.
Now, during the days when I was pregnant and working part time and then working even less than what I’d always thought of as respectably part time, it became clear we were going to have to trim our household costs a little. To that end, I thought, “What if I could make my own Grape Nuts?” Since the internet had been invented, I was able to Google up some recipes, and I hit on one that sounded plausible, and one day I set to making homemade Grape Nuts. This involved lots of mixing and types of flour normal people don’t keep around the house (I think graham flour was involved) and baking and crumbling up slabs of unappetizing brown baked stuff and then baking some more and crumbling some more. It was labor intensive. But I had the time, and I’m the sort of person who, when determined to do something like this, will see it through to the bloody end.
The bloody end, in this case, resulted in a strange nubbly bin of stuff that even I wouldn’t eat. It was horrid. It was so horrid that we had to just laugh at how horrid it was. I attempted it a second time, if I remember correctly, and it came out inedible a second time. And then the inedible horror grew mold. Cold cereals aren’t supposed to grow mold. It was clear that this was something that was just beyond my ability. Our trash was rich with the spoils of my noble attempts.
By this point in our relationship, my husband had gotten used to my kitchen misadventures and was pretty cheerful about it, but this particular episode was so bizarre he began to tell people at his office that I was going around trying to make homemade Grape-Nuts. Naturally, everyone clucked, “Well, women who are very pregnant get odd ideas in their head. It goes with nesting.” “No, no,” he would say. “You don’t understand: she’s like this anyway.” And they’d look at him with an expression that said something like, “wait, you married this person? Because it seemed like a good idea?”
Well, making homemade Grape-Nuts is not a good idea. But making homemade granola is. Making your own pain de mie is a very good idea. Making your own Twix bars is a very good idea. This week we’ve established that making your own Almond Joy bars is a good idea. It’s not that I think everyone should drop whatever they’re doing and go make these things: it’s that if you happen to be the sort of person who likes to kill a few hours in the kitchen doing something really tasty that doesn’t directly relate to what you’re having for dinner, these are things that are really good if you make them yourself. They are even, according to my husband, better than the versions you’d buy at the store.
So, my husband has pointed out to me, it should follow that since I’m someone who wouldn’t bat an eye at making Grape-Nuts or Twix Bars or Almond Joy bars, I might as well try my hand at making croissants from scratch. I’ve now spent some quality time with the King Arthur Flour recipe for making croissants, and have decided that when the weather cools down (it’s 95 degrees outside today), I will give it a shot.

I will let you know if it turns out to be a good idea.


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