Saturday, June 30, 2012

Pat O'Brien's Midsummer "Eye-Opener"

Quaker Brand Puffed Rice Ad

When I first came across the above advertisment from 1936 for Quaker Brand Puffed Rice featuring Hollywood actor, Pat O'Brien, and his "Midsummer 'Eye-Opener'" breakfast, I thought this hearty morning meal actually sounds pretty tasty. What I didn't expect was how hard it would be to find the Quaker Puffed Rice! I visited a few Los Angeles area grocery stores and none carried the product. There were many other kinds of Quaker products, but no puffed rice. I remembered seeing the boxes when I was younger, so I knew it existed during my lifetime and wasn't just some bygone breakfast treat from my grandparents generation. After a quick search online I found that I could buy 10 boxes for $40 on Amazon, but I wasn't ready to make that kind of commitment to the puffed rice. 

I then came across a piece on the Mr. Breakfast website explaining the background of the Quaker Puffed Rice which also had a comments section with many contributors asking where the puffed rice cereal went? According to commenters, there is no Quaker Puffed Rice in New Jersey, Indiana, and Southern California. Have you recently seen this cereal anywhere? An interesting tidbit: according to the website Quaker Puffed Rice was introduced in 1909, but was first seen by the public "at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904, when eight bronze cannons exploded rice over the heads of a huge crowd. When rice kernels are heated under high pressure and exposed to steam, the kernels expand rapidly. You might even say they explode. The result is puffed rice."

My version of the "Midsummer Eye-Opener" breakfast.

Not to be defeated, I made my own version of the Midsummer Eye-Opener breakfast. Rather than using puffed rice, I substituted another Quaker product, "Corn Bran Crunch" toasted cereal. Here's how the advertisment describes the meal:

"THESE torrid days when appetites need coaxing you'll give three cheers for Pat O'Brien's favorite breakfast. For an appetite-arousing starter, honeydew melon, right off the ice. Then comes a happy combination - crisp, crunchy Quaker Puffed Rice [I used Quaker Corn Bran Crunch] with juicy fresh peaches. And bacon on toasted English muffin is as quick and easy to serve as the coffee. Your grocer features this Hollywood breakfast. Serve it to your family tomorrow."

O'Brien and Bogart in the film China Clipper.

The advertisement came out in 1936, the same year O'Brien was starring in the Warner Bros. action film China Clipper. O'Brien plays a former WWI ace pilot who, inspired by Charles Lindbergh's crossing of the Atlantic, attempts to create a trans-Pacific airline. A young Humphrey Bogart who was still working his way up to stardom co-stars as O'Brien's partner. This is one film that I'm hoping the Warner Archive will release on DVD. You can watch some clips from the film on

Robby enjoying the Midsummer Eye-Opener.

One of the things I find funny about the advertisment is its emphasis on digestibility as one of the selling points. "Quaker Puffed Rice [is] readily digestible" it says in one part and in another, "speedy digestibility is important to busy people in these high-tension times." Was digestibility a food marketing buzz word at the time like the way "fat-free" or "gluten-free" is used today? I own another advertisment for doughnuts from 1938 that has a slogan that goes, "Different, Delicious, Digestible, Doughnuts." I've seen some other food ads from the 1930s that also highlight how the food is digestible.

Pat O'Brien shares his favorite breakfast. Do you know what your favorite classic Hollywood actor/actress enjoys for breakfast?


M. Bouffant said...

I thought Rice Puffs might come in a bagged version, but apparently not.

Possibly due to a much meatier diet, I think people were more worried about constipation in those days, which explains the "digestibility" promised.

FlickChick said...

Very nice post. I think Theda Bara has at least 2 victims for breakfast and John Barrymore has some Vodka with a little tomato juice (just because it is breakfast).

Zinnia Cress said...

I don't remember what Buster would eat for breakfast, but I do have a few of Keaton's recipes that I think we should try! I think it would be fun! :)


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