A Letter to David Cameron – Re. Coeliac’s

Dear Mr Cameron,

I appreciate you are a fairly busy man and may well have bigger fish to fry but I feel the need to write to you about coeliac’s.  Truthfully my knowledge of coeliac’s is minimal, and to be extremely honest the first time I had a conversation about coeliac’s I spent the first half of the conversation thinking they were talking about ‘celeriac’  (the ugly rancid root vegetable), this was both perplexing for me and bemusing for my friend.   I am not a coeliac (as far as I know) but I am currently on a personal quest to consume every branded breakfast cereal box by box, this quest is very long winded (literally in the case of heavily oat based cereals) and I have had some highs and lows over the last couple of years.  Recently I started on the gluten free stage of my cereal quest and it has been very interesting.  I had a pre-conception that all gluten free food would taste like a soggy day old poppadum, this was incorrect, and I apologise.  The first thing I noticed about gluten free cereal was that the box of cereal is half the size of a standard box of ‘normal’ cereal, the second thing I noticed (after a few issues with a self service checkout in Tesco’s that was convinced I was a thief, a thief  who’s sole aim was to steal pasteurised milk) was the crazy price.  Gluten Free cereal costs a lot more than ‘normal’ cereal.  For my quest this is largely irrelevant (apart from a cost per portion graph I am working on) but for my wallet it is annoying, especially considering you get half the quantity of cereal in gluten-free boxes than you get in ‘normal’ cereals.

I personally do not like oats, occasionally they have left me in sweaty state of agony and regret, I make the choice to avoid oat based cereals and foods as best I can (I always make the effort to ask waiting staff at restaurants whether their apple crumble is topped with crumble like it should be or if it has been made by a lazy ‘chef’ who has just chucked some oats on it), but the joy of this is I can choose something else.  There is a multitude of foods I can buy and consume without fear of getting taken to hospital, but for coeliac’s this is different.  Coeliac’s have a particularly limited and at times unexciting diet, I have never met an overweight coeliac.  My big issue is that coeliac’s have no choice, they have to opt for gluten free foods, it’s that or they get very ill, they are diagnosed by doctors and medical professionals as having coeliac disease, it is an official disease, something that is medically serious for them.  Therefore, how can it be allowed that they are just put over a barrel by manufacturers and are forced to pay whatever price the manufacturers think up, they don’t get any subsidies or financial help to deal with the extra expense and are stuck paying more and getting less.  It is wrong.  It is the equivalent of charging a wheelchair user more to get in to an event than a ‘normal’ person because they are taking their wheelchair.  If that started happening there would be uproar, and rightly so.  In the UK about 1 in 100 people have coeliac disease, there is around the same amount of people that use a wheelchair, the major difference is that you can see a wheelchair user is a wheelchair user because they have a wheelchair.  This is not about me and really doesn’t affect me but from a very quick look from the outside even I can see this is wrong and unfair.

A few years back I wrote to the Olympic committee about making ‘Crazy Golf’ an Olympic event, I am still awaiting a reply.  But this matter probably affects more people in the UK than some crazy golfers so I would be so grateful for a reply. I would appreciate your views on this and understand it will likely be low on your list of things to do but a reply from you or the relevant department would be gratefully received.

Best regards,

Phil Botto

The Cereal Quest: Weight Watchers Love Fibre – Dithering

As part of my cereal quest I try to maintain honesty and integrity throughout and that is why today I start with an apology.  Yesterday I made a claim that Weight Watchers ‘Love Fibre’ were the “worlds biggest ‘based on average flake size’ flaked cereal”.  This morning when I poured my Love Fibre in to the bowl (that sounds stranger the more you read it) I noticed that the flakes were in fact no bigger than ordinary flaked cereals, the cereal I had yesterday from the very same Love Fibre box must have been bigger, I can not of dreamed it up in the excitement of a new cereal, surely?  Please can someone get some and see if the top of the box is full of giant flakes?

Apart from the flake size, the effects of this Love Fibre (there is no way this can’t sound weird, I will just try and ignore this)  are starting to come to fruition.  I have been at best ‘a little dithery’.  I am walking around and feel like a tad more confused than usual.  On 4 separate occasions I have walked in the kitchen and then scoured the cupboards and fridge in hope that I would see something to remind me why I came in the kitchen in the first place.  This would be fine if it was just effecting me but it’s not, my poor lovely wife is having to suffer.  This afternoon I asked her 3 times (apparently) in the space of about a minute if she wanted a tea or a coffee (what a gent making a drink for his wife, you might be thinking), on all 3 occasions she said coffee.  I went in to the kitchen, I saw cups (bingo!) and made Hols a cup of……………tea.  She drank it, she’s polite like that, but deep down (especially after she told me using words from her mouth)  I knew she wanted coffee.  I hope that this is a one off and this doesn’t continue tomorrow as we are taking a youth group on a trip.

The Cereal Quest: Back After a Medically Induced Break – Weight Watchers Love Fibre

Well, where to begin.  It has been a long 5 months or so, in the quickest way possible here is the last 5 months:

  • Doctor tells me I am not allowed to eat any oats for at least a year to prevent me fainting and possibly having any other related problems.
  • Cereal quest stops.
  • Mrs B gives birth to our beautiful 2nd daughter Emilia
  • Christmas
  • No sleep
  • Tiredness

I hope your last 5 months have been equally as exciting.  I have been toying with the idea of resuming the quest and just doing it without oat based cereals for a long time, I miss the writing, I miss the variation of my breakfast and I miss writing letters to cereal companies.  This morning my daughter came downstairs and eventually broke down in tears because her box of Coco Pops was empty, and although I am well aware she has a cold and she is also a girl, she is emotionally unstable (yesterday she cried when asked if she could pass a pack of wipes about a metre, only to abruptly stop crying and switched to hysterically laughing when she saw a photo of her as a baby taken from a side angle where she only had ‘one ear’) it did show that perhaps love of cereal will run in the family.

I know that as a parent I will no doubt offer words of advice to Isla as she grows up, I will try and help shape her life, improve her life and most importantly help her enjoy her life as she grows, she is going to need someone to teach her things, someone to follow as an example and luckily she has an incredible Mum.

If there is one thing she can inherit from her father (aside from ukulele tuition) then it is cereal knowledge.  I hope one day she will browse the internet seeking a choice of what breakfast to buy she might stumble upon this site and I can help her.

So what cereal should I get going again with?  Well, something new, something I had not seen before, something enticing:

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Introducing ‘Weight Watchers’ Love Fibre.  This in simple terms is Weight Watchers version of Special K, however it is made by the Weetabix company,  and most importantly it tastes a lot better than Special K.  It has a lot maltier taste, like someone has sprinkled some ‘Ovaltine’ (ask your mum, if she doesn’t know it ask mine) over each flake, the flakes are huge.

All of us at one point through our schooling are likely to have genuinely believed we had found the worlds biggest crisp.  We would have gasped in disbelief, shown our friends, maybe even saved it for a night or two, only for our world to come crashing down when we realised we were just staring at a large slice of potato.  These are different, I have found the worlds biggest ‘based on average flake size’ flaked cereal.  I will do more research in to this tomorrow, for now I am claiming it.   Aside from the malty taste and the big flake size you may be wondering if a cereal that has ‘Love Fibre’ slapped in big letters on its box has proved problematic to me and my injury prone stomach, well so far so good.  Thank you for wondering, your thoughtful thoughts are much appreciated.

 

The Cereal Quest: A Double Kellogg’s Fruit & Fibre! Really.

Today was a new beginning, the start of the 2nd year of The Cereal Quest, and to prove how far I had come I opted for Kellogg’s Fruit & Fibre, the key ingredients being ‘fruit’ and ‘fibre’ two things that I would never voluntarily consume.  So I tucked in to my morning bowl whilst watching an incredible game of cricket on Sky Sports, Nepal vs Hong Kong (those classic cricketing nations) in a World T20 qualifier, it was amazing, proper cricket, the sort of cricket you may see down the road at your local park.  People bumbling around, butterfingers dropping catches then getting berated by team mates, people seemingly smacking the ball but it not getting anywhere near the boundary, comedy running, it was brilliant, it was to set up my day perfectly.  The cereal was a huge miss mash of bits of bran flake, coconut, raisins, dried bananas, nuts and other miscellaneous items that if someone offered me on their own I would flatly refuse but because it is with its friends I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.  I even ate this cereal with a very special spoon.  Not one of my cereal quest engraved spoons from last Christmas but with a thin curvaceous spoon, a spoon that we got sent by some company who specialised in cutlery for weddings (genuinely these businesses exist/ed) who over 7 years ago wanted to supply us with their wares so sent us a sample spoon.  For a spoon it is great, it functions like a spoon but makes you feel like you are eating with the Queen.  It is one of those things in our house that for some reason we rarely use (especially in hot drinks) neither of us have ever told the other not to use it but because it looks special we never touch it, we just know.  It sits at the bottom of the teaspoon section in our cutlery drawer.  Why do we have things like this that we store, hidden away, with no intention of ever using, it has no real value but for some reason we don’t use it, it would be degrading for it to be used for its primary function, simply unthinkable, occasionally it may be called up for duty with a posh yoghurt like a Muller Fruit Corner (Strawberry) but then its a quick clean and back in the drawer.  Well today things changed, today I got it out of the cupboard and used it for my cereal, to be honest the thin-ness in the design causes problems for milk transportation and in hindsight I shouldn’t use it for cereal again but I had to learn the lesson one day.  The cereal itself is very crunchy, the dried bananas are easily enough to break the odd tooth, the thrill of eating a cereal that is slightly dangerous delights me.  It put me in a real positive mood for the day, even tonight on the way home from work I was stuck in traffic and I didn’t care, I just turned my music up very loud (‘VOL 74′) and bellowed out ‘She’s So High’ by Fastball at the loudest volume I could. I was sat at traffic lights, I was nailing obscenely high notes at an incredible volume, I was in the zone, I even started clapping, slapping my thighs, drumming on the steering wheel, until I looked up to my right to see a motorcyclist staring in to my car laughing.  Classic commuting awkwardness.  Those lights then took forever to change to green, I didn’t measure the time but I’m fairly confident it was forever.  I got home safely, still happy as happy cold be, no doubt because of my daily dose of Fruit & Fibre, in the evening I had a ukulele social group in Bournemouth which was brilliant and got home to have another bowl of Kellogg’s Fruit & Fibre for dinner, lets hope the happiness continues, lets also hope the lack of IBS reaction to Fruit & Fibre continues.  For a day where I was abruptly woken by my face slipping in to a pillow size pool of my own dribble, today was an excellent day, same again tomorrow I hope, without the dribble.

Happy Birthday to The Cereal Quest!

It feels fairly unbelievable that this Cereal Quest has been going for a year, I celebrated in appropriate fashion;

Happy Birthday

The quest has been topsy turvy so far, I have pushed boundaries particularly oat ones in ways someone with IBS never should.  I have put my body on the line, I have collapsed twice and spent over a week on the toilet.  So far on The Cereal Quest I have had 70 different cereals, today I finished my 70th, Ready Brek Chocolate, in short it is another poor attempt from a cereal manufacturer to encourage kids to eat a healthy cereal by calling it chocolate when in truth it is has minimal chocolate flavouring, the chocolate flavour is like your ring finger, you know it’s there but in truth it serves little or no purpose.  I woke up in a celebratory mood, how would I spend the big day?  At work.  I got there hoping maybe someone would have put on a surprise party, I was wrong, Max the over zealous Springer Spaniel licked my kneecaps, great.  Work was fine and I popped to Tesco’s, I needed a new cereal to start tomorrow.  The problem I now have is that I have massive memory issues, you can ask my wife, whatever her name is.  The cereal selection process is taking me longer than ever before, I stand there browsing the shelves for a cereal I haven’t had before but I just can’t remember, I have picked up many a cereal box only to place it back on the shelf after remembering I have already had it.  All the normal customers just walk up, pluck something from the shelves and walk off, their lives are so simple.  I have now had to start searching this website on my phone whilst perusing the shelves, today I hadn’t realised how long I had been scrolling up and down the list of cereals so far, I hadn’t responded to the polite “Ahem..” from the lady behind hoping this hint would make me move, the other side of the aisle had been blocked off by a huge bizarrely placed display of Ambrosia Devon Custard, I would estimate there were 500 tins of custard and one puzzled looking buffoon was blocking this womans way to the corn flakes she was after.  So she did as any other middle aged woman would have done, she nudged my left buttock with the rolled front edge of her shopping trolley, subtle, I felt it, but I was in a daze, my focus was purely on cereal selection.  By the time I had turned around with my ‘sorry I was just seeing what cereals I have eaten over the last year’ face on she had already pulled back and started on the next more forceful nudge, this time into my right thigh as I turned.  Now I didn’t know what face to pull, I was preparing an apologetic face but now I needed to switch to a face that said ‘stop ramming that trolley in to me’ but also at the same time look a bit apologetic, I failed, I just looked grumpy, I stepped back, tripped over 500 cans of custard and let her walk past with an exaggerated arm indication (as if directing traffic).  She then made a “hmmmph!” noise and we both got on with our lives.  I found a cereal to start tomorrow, it will be a sign of how far I have come since the quest started.  Now when I started this quest I wanted it to be educational, I wanted to help people see advantages and disadvantages of cereal so here are a few helpful tips for you.

Fancy collapsing, smacking your head on a sink on the way down and spending the next 8 days in bed over Christmas?  Knock yourself out, try Jordan’s Country Crisp with Raspberries.

Want to scare an elderly woman in to thinking you are mugging her? You want Kellogg’s Krave Chocolate Caramel.

Want to impress your child/children? Try Kellogg’s Ricicles.

Looking to conceive a child? You want Kellogg’s Coco Pops Coco Rocks.

Need terrible serving suggestion advice? But also want to receive great news and happiness? Go for Weetabix Ready Brek.

Thinking of announcing your retirement from International football?  You need Kellogg’s Special K with Strawberries and Chocolate.

Want to upset lovely friendly people and get a long term knee injury all in the same weekend?  Grab some Honey Monster Choco Wows.

If you want to get scammed by a cereal claiming it will help you lose weight yet has more fat, sugar and calories than really unhealthy cereals get some Special K, any variety.

Finally a big thank you to Mrs B who has endured hour upon hour of hearing me tap away on this keyboard, she is awesome.

 

The Cereal Quest: Days 317 – 323 Jordans Super Berry Country Crisp

Joy of joys, another variety of Jordans Country Crisp, the cereal that was the first in the quest to cause me to collapse soon after I had tried its raspberry variety.  I think it is almost justifiable to enter in to this new cereal on tip toes.  I studied the box in detail, not to take in any information but to procrastinate and delay the tasting of another oat based cereal on the cereal quest.  I have learnt that oats will inevitably be my downfall and I put my body on the line each time I consume them (see Honey Monster Choco Wows for evidence) so I tried to shake off my fear and tucked in:

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The box has lovely autumnal colours, perfect for this time of year…….autumn.  It is Jordans ‘Super’ Berry Crunch, I was trying to get myself excited about how ‘super’ these berries might turn out to be, I looked through the ingredients list, cranberries (not a fan but will eat them if forced, and I am being forced) and blackcurrants, this was I think the first cereal to introduce blackcurrants and I was excited, I love the twang you get with blackcurrants, I was excited, this might well turn out to be ‘super’, or as super as an oat based cereal could be.  I sat down to eat and couldn’t believe what was happening, I felt like a new man, a man that was enjoying a clustery oat based cereal, the cousin of the cereal that first took me off my feet, I had changed, I felt great, I was enjoying a healthy cereal, I was proud of myself, I had turned a corner.  But pride comes before a fall, luckily this time not one from 6ft into a bathroom sink, but a fall nonetheless.  My bowels hit the roof (not literal), my insides started strangling me (not literally) and my face resembled that of a wasps, that had been hit with an electrically charged plastic tennis racket shaped killing device (literal).  This sadly was how this cereal progressed, by the end of the box I was frustrated, I wanted to like the cereal but unfortunately its key ingredient wasn’t interested in forging a friendship with me.

Here are my vital statistics for my Jordans Super Berry Country Crisp Review:

Cereal Cost: £2.69
Real Servings per Box: 7
Cost per Serving: 38.4p
Pros – The blackcurrants really bring something new to the fore, they are a great inclusion.
Cons – IBS sufferers beware, these WILL hurt you.

The Cereal Quest: Days 310 – 316 Kellogg’s Krave White Chocolate Brownie

 

photo1-22I was over the moon to be starting a new ‘more exciting’ cereal than the previous offerings recently,  I was also particularly excited because a new cereal, in this case Kellogg’s Krave White Chocolate Brownie also coincided with the best weekend of the year, the World Crazy Golf Championships 2013.  This tournament is organised by the BMGA and stands out for me because this tournament is accessible for all.  I have played in other BMGA tournaments but each time found myself more and more frustrated with it not being a level playing field, not that I am good enough to ever come close to winning but it still frustrates me.  You see at most other BMGA events participants are allowed to use special balls that they buy in from Germany or elsewhere and carry round in little bags.  Some balls bounce miles, some are weighted to not bounce at all, they all have their advantages so for someone who wants to try and get involved and try out a competition to get there and see that 95% of the other competitors have a fairly big leg up on them from the start just puts them off doing any other competitions.  However, this is where the World Crazy Golf Championships steps in and addresses the problem, all players must play with the same type of ball, surely this is the reason that this event is the most popular on the BMGA calendar and more popular with new players, families and people looking to have fun and try out the sport.  This is why I love it, you get to meet lots of fresh faces, people who are there for a good weekend away and to have fun.  I know that I much prefer the ‘Crazy’ Golf competitions to the ‘Mini’ Golf.  Maybe one day there will be a BCGA (British Crazy Golf Association), one that focuses more on making a fun sport more accessible for more people and a level playing field for all.  I’m not saying that the BMGA does a bad job at all, since they have started they have seen many changes and the sheer level of competitive players now compared to the start shows how well Sean is doing.  This competition is organised superbly and Sean does a great job of keeping people in groups near their families/friends groups, the course is a classic and people always have fun.  But other tournaments are more exclusive to people who want to either invest in expensive equipment or stand little to no chance of winning.  The joy of Crazy Golf in my opinion is it is a completely level playing field and that on any given event anyone with a bit of luck could fluke a win.  It’s also a fun weekend to socialise and have a good laugh with friends, I always try to make my own putter and this year I went for a lovely cereal theme, I was feeling optimistic:

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Made of about 95% cereal boxes with just some plastercine in the base, a bit of superglue and a few rolls of sellotape.  After a nice quantity of Krave White Chocolate Brownie and a very rushed practice I was ready to set the cereal box putter loose and after round 1 I was over the moon, a score of 40 for me on an 18 hole course, on the seafront in Hastings in what was being termed as the worst storm to hit the UK in 25 years, I was pleased with the score but even more pleased when I realised I was at least 7 shots ahead of both of my mates I had come down with and my brother.  Bragging rights were mine, for the next hour, until I stood and took my first shot on hole 2 in the 2nd round of the day.  I knew I needed to hit the ball hard, there is an uphill climb on this hole so I wellied it and looked down at my putter.  Problem.  Big problem.  I had dented the putter face, the putter I had so lovingly made and designed was floored, now it was nigh on impossible to hit a straight shot.  I was gutted, and over the weekend my scores increased, I lost heavily to both my brother and to one of my mates, my other mate I did manage to beat but he had a terribly bad back and was essentially being pushed from hole to hole by the gale force winds, he was also hitting in the most casual way possible.  A great weekend it was, but not a successful one.  Cereal had shown me that it can be very cruel.  Cereal boxes had shown me they lack resistance against gale force winds and are not ideal as putters, lesson learnt.  After these rounds I got home and had another bowl of Kellogg’s Krave White Chocolate Brownie, these things are unbelievably rich and sweet, usually I can devour a box like this in 3, maybe 4 servings but these I had to limit, they made me feel a bit sick so the box lasted a huge 6 servings, which for a box the size of an ostriches finger nail is impressive.  They are no where near as nice as the other ‘Krave’ varieties, please just trust me, don’t bother, unless you have the taste buds of a 7 year old.

Here are the vital statistics for my Kellogg’s Krave White Chocolate Brownie review:

Cereal Cost: £2.79
Real Servings per Box: 7
Cost per Serving: 39.8p
Pros – Sweet and certainly not dull.
Cons – Little and often is your only option.

The Cereal Quest: Days 304 – 309 – Special K Peach and Apricot

 

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Well I hate to sound like I moan a lot, of course if you have been reading from the start you may know this, but this cereal is dreadful.  Special K with Peach and Apricot has quite possibly the worst texture of any cereal out there.  It has crunchy flakes followed by the fruit, but the fruit is not crisp, chewy or crunchy, it is soggy, it feels like you are downing slugs, slushy slugs.  Even worse the fruit tastes horrible and simply doesn’t go well with the bland crunchy flakes.  I don’t want to dwell on this cereal too long, it doesn’t deserve it.  Of course it is also irritating that yet again this Special K with Peach and Apricots has more calories, sugar and fat than cereals like Lucky Charms, please don’t fall for buying Special K as a weight loss tactic.  It is a farce.  For a cereal not to taste nice is bad enough but for you to fear the consumption because of texture is horrible is ill thought out from a company so experienced in cereal manufacturing.

Here are the vital statistics for my Kellogg’s Special K with Peach and Apricot review:

Cereal Cost: £2.69
Real Servings per Box: 6
Cost per Serving: 44.8p
Pros – None, do not buy this cereal, you will regret it.
Cons – Texture, taste all you would ask for in a cereal is missing.

The Cereal Quest: Days 294 – 303 Jordans Natural Muesli

You may well be thinking that this cereal appears to have taken me about a million years to eat and you would be correct.  Jordans Natural Muesli, is not the worst muesli out there, but it is far from the best.  It is very dry and you find yourself reducing your portion sizes to ensure you get through them rather than struggling at the end of the bowl.  They also come in a huge 1KG bag, which I have written to Jordans about before and will write again.  A bag is not a suitable container for cereal, it is infuriating.  Karl and Susan on Neighbours have plastic cereal containers, this is all very well but I don’t have one and don’t want one, it should be the job of the manufacturer to choose sensible packaging.  Luckily for Jordans and for the rest of the residents of my cupboard I have some clip peg things from Ikea to stop muesli gushing out the seams of the bag.

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I was somewhat confused upon purchasing this muesli about the fact it was the great value 1KG pack, confused because there was no option of a normal sized box or even a normal sized bag.  It was a ‘new recipe’ which to be honest I have learnt to become sceptical of.  If you are making muesli and put just 0.00001g less of sugar it is a new recipe, it essentially means nothing but is another thing to grab potential customers, I think it is a bit of a cheap trick, I would much prefer that if manufacturers do the ‘new recipe’ thing they have to say by how many percent the recipe has changed.  All in all the muesli was fine but when you have a whole load of cereals to get through you could do without one lasting for 9 days.

Here are the vital statistics for my Jordans Natural Muesli review:

Cereal Cost: £2.99
Real Servings per Box: 9
Cost per Serving: 33.2p
Pros – Fairly cheap, apparently quite healthy.
Cons – Terrible packaging, too big a bag, lasts too long.