By MICHELLE SCHMIDT
Like many of you, I grew up in a home in which cereal was poured into a bowl before milk. This practice was modeled, more than it was taught. I can’t remember a single conversation which explained the necessity of pouring cereal first or warning of the woes of deviating from this order — the cereal went in first; it was just understood.
For 38 years I followed this practice, maintaining a devotion to pouring cereal first. That a person would do otherwise was foreign to me, unimaginable. And the first time I watched someone pour milk first, I felt pity for the poor, unenlightened soul who had not yet heard about the one true way to prepare a bowl of cereal.
Eventually I learned that some had chosen this way of living. It wasn’t that they didn’t know any better, or hadn’t explored other paths — it was a practice they had chosen.
My first response was anger. How could someone be so foolish? How could these people not see what was clearly good and best? It seemed evident to me that I was in the right in pouring cereal first, and these opposing beliefs felt like an attack. For years, I denied respect to anyone who poured milk, then cereal.
But doubts began to form. I started to notice that I often had a small portion of milk remaining in my bowl after enjoying my cereal. It was a happy mistake — it meant I got to pour myself a little more cereal to finish it up — but it was a mistake nonetheless. After all these years, pouring countless bowls of cereal, I had failed to master an ability to pour the correct ratio of milk to cereal.
Suddenly the scales fell from my eyes, and I saw the truth. I had been adding cereal to milk all this time — only I had done it after I had eaten the cereal I had poured first. I added only a little cereal to the little bit of milk that remained, but I had done it in that order.
And the ratios were typically right. Rarely did I have to pour cereal a third time or add more milk. For the first time, I saw things as they really were. Did I dare extend the practice to the first pour of milk and cereal? Could I really turn on the training of my childhood and the years I had devoted to pouring cereal first?
The first time I poured milk into an empty cereal bowl, it felt wrong, completely unnatural. I felt unsure and a little afraid — what if this didn’t work? Or worse — what if it did?
I finished the last spoonful of that bowl in silence. Sure enough, the ratio had been correct. I could pour myself more cereal, but it wouldn’t be to correct an error. Perhaps I had gotten lucky, I thought, so I tried it again later with a different cereal.
And still, my bowl was finished in perfect balance.
I tried it again, and again and again. Every time, my last spoonful held a little cereal and the last of the milk.
I am yet new in my practice of pouring milk first. It still feels unnatural to pour the cool, white liquid into an empty bowl, but the truth is evident: By pouring the milk first, I have yet to be found wanting in cereal. Whether I want a half bowl of cereal or a full one, I have found it’s the milk that I must follow, not the cereal.
There is a way to pour yourself a bowl of cereal that ends in rightness — it’s a way that may seem counterintuitive, but in the end it leads to joy.