The Surreal Cereal Ideal: Meet the Students Scoring Breakfast by the Bowl

There isn’t really a first rule of Cereal Club. However, senior accounting major and president of Bradley University’s Cereal Club Michael Haydock does have some cereal stipulations.

“We will never have Special K at Cereal Club,” Haydock said. “It's not a Cereal Club cereal. No one is excited to see a box of Special K.”

Instead, Haydock explains, much of the appeal comes from the opportunity to try new, interesting and even weird cereal. Nowadays, ‘strange cereal’ taste-tests increasingly populate the likes of publications like Kotaku, Business Insider and BuzzFeed. With titles like “11 of the weirdest breakfast cereals throughout history” and “I Tried These Weird New Cereals So You Don't Have To,” the widespread interest is easy to see – On the spectrum of morbid curiosity, strange cereals pose a mouthful of surprise.

“One of the highest rated cereals we've ever given was the Wendy's Frosty cereal,” Haydock said. “It was phenomenal.” 

The group meets approximately every two months to give stores time to stock new seasonal, limited time, or otherwise special cereal. With about 50 registered members, each meeting goes about the same (save for the time someone brought a Nerf gun and introduced a little danger). Gathered in the Executive Suite in the Student Center Basement, they open with a couple of spoonfuls. Then, they give a formal rating based on flavor, texture and aftertaste. Finally, they cut out the cover and save their results in a three-ring binder. 

Outside of standard meetings, the organization also gathers once a year at Fired Up, a pottery glazing business in Peoria Heights, so members can design their very own cereal bowls.

“It's super low maintenance,” Haydock said. “Honestly, that's my favorite thing about it. I don't lose any sleep. It takes 30 minutes to set up a meeting and 30 minutes to have a meeting. When you're spending four plus years of your life studying, it's nice to have a little break.”

However, the process is not without guardrails – there are those cereal stipulations, after all. Milk choice? 2%, unless you’re lactose intolerant. Chocolate milk? No. Sliced bananas? Absolutely not. Intentionally wait for cereal to get soggy?

“That is the wrong way. As the cereal club president, there is no one with more status than me to declare an official right or wrong. There's two ways you can mess up cereal. You pour in the milk first, and you do that. That's just gross. Don't do that.”

But all of this hemming and hawing over grains and dairy begs the question – Why cereal? What can we learn from the sugary stuff inside the bowl?

“Cereal teaches us that you can't wait forever for things to happen. Much like how you pour milk into cereal, over time, cereal gets too soggy. It's no good. Just like in life, if you have a goal or aspiration, you need to get out there and strive for it. You need to push. You need to send those resumes. You need to work on that passion project. You need to do that now. Just like you eat that cereal before it gets soggy.”

— Jenevieve Rowley-Davis