Saturday, November 19, 2011


How low does a writer have to go to write an essay on farina? How much of total nerd does it take to even spend time thinking about it? Guess I’m about to find out.

A few days ago I was in the grocery store and overheard a young clerk tell an older clerk that a customer was looking for farina.

“Farina,” the young clerk said, “I have no idea . . . “

“Aisle 6 on the left, about halfway up the aisle,” said the older clerk, “on top, above the oatmeal.”

I chuckled and the old guy just grinned and rolled his eyes.

Wasn’t Farina related to Buckwheat? Who came up with the names of those characters in the Our Gang television series? Farina and Buckwheat were two of the little black kids—but who was Stymie? The show was equal opportunity when it came to stereotypes because it had black kids, a fat white boy, a whiney white girl, and a bully white kid. I’d love to see that show again. I’ll bet it’s not hard to find it online. Anything you want is on YouTube. (I recently watched a clip from the Milt Grant show—but that’s another essay on yet another important topic.)

But seriously, farina is a food grain and we Americans know it as Cream of Wheat. Look at the box and it will say exactly that—Cream of Wheat (subtitle Enriched Farina). It was a staple of my childhood—a warm, comfort-food breakfast. It was never, ever the quick-cook variety in the packet. Hell no! You had to cook it in a saucepan with water (or milk if you were feeling frisky) and a dash of salt. You had to pour the dry Cream of Wheat carefully into the boiling water and stir continually to avoid lumps. You had to cook it in the saucepan because you needed to learn the value of hard work and discipline by scrubbing clean the saucepan encrusted with Cream of Wheat that turns into cement if left to dry. You did this after digging potatoes in the garden, butchering a chicken, and before walking 5 miles to school with no shoes. Or pants. We didn’t wear pants but we wore little lace things on our heads. Or a folded Kleenex held on with bobby pins if we were desperate.

Oh, wait, I forgot I was writing about farina. A little break from our sponsor, that pesky attention deficit thing.

My children grew up loving Cream of Wheat but their favorite part was the lumps, so much so that they would request it cooked with lumps intact. They were creating their own tradition.

I’ve been sick and downtrodden. Life is hard. So I’ve been eating Cream of Wheat, chicken soup, and ginger ale. I will get better, things won’t always be so hard. And now I can say I’ve reached the pinnacle because I’ve written an essay on farina. Anyone want to buy my book?

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