Fruit Islands Cereal

Fruit Islands is my Rosebud. It represents a lost childhood innocence that I shall likely never reclaim, and I have a Proustian relationship with this cereal such that as I write this, I can actually taste, ever so faintly, these Cookie Crisp-shaped pieces, hear the satisfying crunch as each “island” succumbs to the force of my clenching teeth and feel the resulting shrapnel tearing through the tender flesh along the roof of my mouth.

Fruit Islands boxThis cereal has everything that both children and stoned teenagers crave in a sugary breakfast cereal: colorful cereal pieces, satisfying mouth crunch, commanding flavor, and endearing cartoon characters as its spokesmen. The similarities, for example, between King Ayumayma and Buddha are pretty overt, and he and his sidekick Hee Hee further resemble Vaudevillian comedy duo Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton and later Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, who themselves were fierce competitors in Fruity Islands’ cereal universe with their much poorer quality Fruity Pebbles cereal franchise featuring several different variations, including Cocoa Pebbles, which attempts to infringe on the much better perennial all-stars Snap, Crackle, and Pop’s delectable Cocoa Krispies.

This cereal’s discontinuation remains one of the greater disappointments of my life, second only to not scoring with my undergraduate history TA in the cramped office she shared on the ninth-floor history department at my university. And as if discontinuing the cereal wasn’t bad enough (which it was), Ralston poured further salt onto this wound by discontinuing the cereal in the middle of a sweepstakes, effectively ending its latest commercial campaign on a cliffhanger that surely inspired David Chase when writing the Sopranos’ series finale.

Because you see, King Ayumayma and Hee Hee were lost at sea after a small fish dragged them away from Fruit Islands. Children were supposed to help the King and Hee Hee find their way back to their island home by eating increasing amounts of Fruit Islands cereal. It wasn’t exactly a fool-proof plan, and there are plenty of gaps in its reasoning that should give rise to myriad questions, not the least of which being why King Ayumayma would be the one fishing in the first place if he is in fact the king, but the obedient, sugar-crazed kids that we were, we were happy enough to participate in the search by demanding our put-upon mothers purchase more and more boxes of Fruit Islands cereal to join in the search.

However, our efforts failed and the cereal was soon discontinued. While my therapist insists that I shouldn’t appropriate as much personal blame for this as I do, I yet feel the sting of having let King Ayumayma and Hee Hee down. Perhaps if I had eaten just one more box of Fruit Islands cereal, sent in just one more proof of purchase to Westport, Connecticut, to demonstrate my devotion to the cause, then King Ayumayma and Hee Hee may have been saved and Fruit Islands spared the terrible insult of being forever lost to the distant memory of better childhood breakfasts. I’m not trying to suggest that this was exactly like Oscar Schindler at the end of Schindler’s List, but the similarities are there despite my therapist’s continued protestations to the contrary.

Ultimately, I and Fruit Islands fans everywhere were left to assume that King Ayumayma and Hee Hee either died at sea or washed ashore on a deserted island somewhere in the South Pacific where King Ayumayma undoubtedly killed and then ate Hee Hee after going mad from having to drink salt water to stave off the pangs of dehydration, thereafter succumbing to hypernatremia and receiving only moderate surcease by imbibing handcup-fulls of the blood he managed to drain from Hee Hee’s rapidly desiccating corpse.

The point is that this cereal’s discontinuation, much like the television sitcom Alf, which ended on a cliffhanger as Alf was surrounded by federal agents in the middle of a field, this cereal’s discontinuation left a similar, unresolved void in my psyche. And I for one blame this lingering preoccupation with King Ayumayma and Hee Hee’s personal well-being on most of my life’s misfortunes and bad mistakes, including two failed marriages and a career in public education.

* This post is an extended version of my review from July of 2010 appearing on MrBreakfast.com.
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