Shredded Wheat – and my father – caused one of the most traumatic experiences in my entire, long life. It happened when I was fifteen, during my first full summer at sleep-away camp.
About two weeks into the season, the camp served shredded wheat for breakfast. I’m talking about those, big, fist-sized logs, not the bite-sized shredded wheat that did not exist in the nineteen-fifties. I and my friends all happily took a log or two of the shredded wheat for our bowls and headed to our table, where there were big pitchers of milk.
I did what my father always did. I picked up my log of shredded wheat and crumbled it inside my hands, so that the shreds fell, milk-ready, into the bowl. Everyone at the table burst into laughter. I looked up: they were all doing something different that was, to me, incomprehensible. They had poured milk over their uncrumbled shredded wheat, and they were cutting into it with their spoons.
It mattered not that I knew they were eating their breakfasts the wrong, wrong way. I was the odd boy out, laughed away from the table.
I never ate shredded wheat at camp again.