I’m back! I’ve been away for a couple of weeks for a little blog tlc (moving from blogger to wordpress), and it feels so nice to be back to an easier, sleeker site. Same look, but better to use – woohoo! My return is with a post I originally planned to post 2 Mondays ago, National Cereal Day – better late than never, right?
In fact, one of the best things about cereal is how versatile it is. It’s usually breakfast, but can really be any meal in a pinch and is one of my favorite snacks. I’ve always really liked cereal – my first word was “Cheerios,” so how could I not? Growing up, my parents only let us have “unhealthy” cereal, like my favorite, Fruit Loops, for one week every summer vacation. In high school I developed a weakness for Lucky Charms, and nowadays I stick to granola or Kashi cereal with fresh fruit. Celebrate your love of cereal with these bars, the more mature Rice Krispie treat!
The corn cereal base is a little more significant than the rice original. Corn was one of the first and most important crops in the Americas. European settlers learned about maize when they arrived in the late 15th century, and it was this miracle crop that helped them survive their first winters without starving. In the late 19th century, the Kellogg brothers introduced the world’s first commercial cornflakes. With that came one of the first advertising campaigns; a company secretary posed with her arms full of cornstalks, the “Sweetheart of the Corn.” This image of health and wholesome American values continued for years, and though Kellogg has many, many other competitors now, their cornflakes were an early American institution.
Corn has also always been a pretty iconic image in art. A few decades before Kellogg introduced cornflakes to the world, French painters of the Barbizon school favored cornfields and the people who worked in them as their subjects. Some of these artists, such as Jules Breton, showed an idealized depiction of peasant life, where others, like Jean-François Millet showed a slightly more realistic scene. Within this genre, a popular theme was gleaning, or the act of collecting leftover crops from a farmer’s fields after they had been commercially harvested.
Millet’s The Gleaners was a result of 10 years of his research on the theme of gleaners. The work shows three women in the foreground, bent over, their eyes searching the ground for leftover corn that might have been missed by earlier harvesters. This was a backbreaking task, and the austerity of their work contrasts with the abundance of corn in the background. These three women represent the poorest of the poor – they are bent down low, showing their lowly position in society, as they search for scraps of food. They are being carefully supervised by the figure on horseback in the far right, who ensures that they do not take corn that might be economically profitable for the farm – they are truly scavengers.
These bars are super quick to make (a little over 30 minutes start to finish!), and can easily be made with whatever ingredients you have handy. I like the combination of dried cranberries, pecans and cornflakes, but try with dried blueberries or cherries, and walnuts or pistachios.
Cranberry Cornflake Squares with Candied Pecans
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups mini marshmallows
5 ½ cups cornflakes
¼ cup candied pecans
¼ cup dried cranberries
Spray an 8 x 8-inch square pan with cooking spray or lightly butter and set aside. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. When completely melted, lower the heat a bit more and stir in the mini marshmallows. Continue to stir until thoroughly melted and then remove from heat. In a large bowl, mix together the cornflakes, pecans and cranberries and then add the melted marshmallows. Using a wooden spoon, quickly combine the mixture, and then press into the prepared pan. Let cool and harden for at least 30 minutes and then cut into 16 squares. Yum!
Recipe inspired by Momofuku Milkbar and Momofukufor2, makes 16
Featured art: Jean-François Millet, The Gleaners, 1857, oil on canvas