THERE IS nothing quite like starting the day with a heaping bowl of Cap'n Crunch cereal and watching your hands tremble violently as that first jolt of sugar hits the central nervous system.
Top if off with three or four cups of strong coffee and by mid-morning, you're speeding around like a jittery fox terrier, ready to tackle (sometimes literally) that new client or whip through those household chores or clear a dozen acres of trees and heavy underbrush using nothing more than a hatchet and old-fashioned elbow grease.
Nevertheless, in the interest of variety, we have been shopping for a new breakfast cereal and have sampled the following:
Froot Loops (Kellogg's) -- Think the nutritionists up in Battle Creek, Mich., haven't been working overtime? Colorful box heralding breakfast breakthrough ("New! Limegreen Fruit Flavor!") was a come-on, as was candid photo of excitable spokesbird Toucan Sam. Bowlful of ultra-sweet multi-grain flakes laced with lime offers welcome change from dreary, run-of-the-mill fare of eggs, sausage, etc.
Frosted Flakes (Kellogg's) -- This old standby still packs plenty of wallop for sugar junkies. Veteran pitchcat Tony the Tiger hams it up ("They're GR-R-REAT!") in familiar pose, although box ("Made With Tony's Secret Formula!") hints that all his years of night school paid off.
Cookie-Crisp (Ralston) -- If limegreen fruit flavor's a bit much at 7 a.m., why not give this chocolate chip-like cereal a shot? E-N-E-R-G-Y?! You have no idea. This reporter ate a bowl and promptly ran from Baltimore to Burlington, Vt., in six hours, then built a 30-foot redwood deck for a Mrs. Doris Amato of 114 Willow Ave. Note to Ralston marketing staff: Keebler Elves available for endorsement opportunities.
Grape Nuts (Post) -- No sugar, fat free, natural wheat and barley . . . what's the point?
Bill and Ted's Excellant Cereal (Ralston) -- Dude! PR folks went a little overboard on slogan ("A Most Awesome Breakfast Adventure!"), but cinnamon oat squares and marshmallow bits get you up-up-UP! and out the door in the morning. No wonder those guys never shut up!
Honey Graham Oh!s (Quaker) -- Cryptic message on box ("Good Things in the Middle!") had this reporter envisioning folded $20 bills or cultured pearls in each tiny nugget. Instead, we had to content ourselves with traditional breakfast taste of honey and graham crackers. Jet fuel once it hits the bloodstream!
Total (General Mills) -- Multi-vitamin supplement cereal with iron and zinc. What, no copper or bauxite?
Cocoa Puffs (General Mills) -- Catchy, alliterative slogan ("I'm Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!") was enough to sell me!
Marshmallow Alpha-Bits (Post) -- Alphabet shapes allow bored eaters to spell out their names -- at least until sugar high kicks in and makes concentration all but impossible. National Dyslexia Foundation urging its members to boycott cereal, claiming sight of the tiny nuggets swimming in milk is "too frustrating."
Cheerios (General Mills) -- Whole grain toasted oat cereal. Yawn.
Rice Krispies (Kellogg's) -- Three-inch-tall spokesnerds Snap, Crackle and Pop still pushing this dreary fat-free, cholesterol-free gruel. Load it up with six tablespoons of sugar, it's not too bad.
Dino Pebbles (Post) -- Rice and marshmallow combo goes together like stick of dynamite and 6-inch fuse! Dopey ex-Flintstones pet Dino the Dinosaur seems a curious choice to grace the box, although fellow Stone Age reps Fred and Barney are proven media superstars.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal (Ralston) -- Let's see . . . they cut two movies, wrote a book, have their own Saturday morning cartoon series and line of toys . . . sure, why not a cereal? My right eye was twitching after three spoonfuls!
Special K (Kellogg's) -- Low calorie, rich in fiber, blah, blah, blah.
The Addams Family (Ralston) -- Can't accuse Ralston of capitalizing on the latest fad (snicker, snicker.) "Fortified with 9 essential vitamins and minerals" -- the box actually says that. One bowl and this reporter had to resist the urge to repeatedly ram his head against the wall.
Shredded Wheat (Nabisco) -- No sugar, no salt, no fun. Hairy little squares belong in your clothes closet keeping the moths away, not on the breakfast table.