The Corn Flake Camouflage Caper

English: Oatmeal and cornflakes Christmas cook...The Corn Flake Camouflage Caper

James R. Aist

When I was growing up in rural Arkansas, there were five or six of us kids in the household at any one time, and two parents. We were relatively poor, but never destitute. Poor meant that where food was concerned, nothing was wasted, not even stale, soggy corn flakes. Now, corn flakes was just about the cheapest dry cereal available at the time, so Mama would buy several of the over-sized boxes of them at a time, especially if they were on sale. This was a successful strategy to stretch our precious few dollars, but it contained the seeds of its own destruction. The breaking point came after we had been offered nothing but corn flakes for breakfast for about three or four weeks running, and it was made clear that it was going to be only corn flakes until our stock of the golden morsels was depleted. Mama was trying to use up her stockpile of corn flakes before they got too stale and soggy. We kids were sympathetic to her cause, but the thought of corn flakes again was more than we could stomach…literally. And it was already too late; the corn flakes were now officially stale and soggy. It was time to take a stand.

So, we kids talked it over and, with great trepidation, we “announced” to Mama at the next breakfast that we were not going to eat any more corn flakes for the foreseeable future, and especially not stale and soggy ones. I think that Mama was a bit amused that we would conspire to rebel over such a seemingly trivial issue, and so she purposed in her heart to feign compliance while all the time plotting to turn the tables on our little rebellion. The challenge had been issued and Mama was more than happy to take us on. This trivial dispute was to become a friendly competition thoroughly enjoyed by both sides as the drama unfolded over the ensuing weeks.

Suddenly we were enjoying other choices for breakfast and were becoming convinced that our solidarity against the powers that be had been wonderfully rewarded. Then we began to notice something a little strange about some of the side dishes at our family meals. Could it be that there were now corn flakes, of all things, in the meatloaf? We compared notes with each other, and sure enough…corn flakes in the meatloaf! We laughed out loud. That really was clever of her, albeit thoroughly sneaky. Now we were engaged in a game of subterfuge and camouflage with Mama, and it was delightful. So, in a spirit of levity, we declared “OK, we’re on to you; there’s corn flakes in the meatloaf, and we’re not eating any more cornflakes!” With a sly, coy smile, Mama replied, “We’ll see about that.”

And that seemed to be the end of it. That is, until the cornbread looked a little funny one day…but what is that? What are those strange, yellowish, orange things in the cornbread? Aha! Corn flakes in the cornbread; don’t anybody eat the cornbread! And on and on it went: first, corn flakes in the meatloaf; then, corn flakes in the cornbread; then, corn flakes in the oatmeal; then, corn flakes in the cookies; and so on. It was a fight to the finish. Mama was determined to make us eat the stale, soggy cornflakes, one way or another, until they were all gone, and we were equally determined to sniff them out and refuse to be outsmarted, until dear old Mama ran out of clever and creative ideas to disguise them. Finally, Mama called for a truce, and we all shared a hearty laugh or two over the corn flake camouflage caper. Truth be told, I kind of hated to see it come to an end; it was fun while it lasted.

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