Monday, December 18, 2006

The Quest for Cocoa Wheats

Ah, the comfort foods of childhood! One of my favorites was Coco Wheats, a hot cereal along the same lines as oatmeal or cream of wheat. As a matter of it, the best way to describe it is a cocoa-ized version of cream of wheat, although that's not completely accurate. Even though it is chocolately, it is not sweetened at all. As a kid, I sprinkled it liberally with sugar and drowned it in a pool of milk, stirring it into a teeth-jangling, soupy glop.

When I reached adulthood, I usually kept a box or two of Coco Wheats in the cupboard. I lost the taste for sugar, but it made a yummy cocoa treat when I was in the mood for a quick fill-'er-up. Although it's good at any time of the year, I've always perceived it as a cold-weather food. Like oatmeal, it sticks to your ribs, so it makes a handy breakfast or a way to attack an evening craving. Because it is warm and hearty, it tastes particularly good when the cold winds are blowing outside and snowflakes are swirling around the window panes.

When we moved to Celebration, Coco Wheats slipped from my mind. You don't see many snowflakes in Florida unless they are made of soap, and "cold" is a relative term. For two years, my inner child did without, but suddenly this winter a craving cropped up out of nowhere. It was during our last cold snap, when temperatures in the Orlando area were actually flirting with the freeze point. My inner thermostat clicked, and suddenly I wanted to fill up on some pre-hibernation comfort food.

I dutifully added Coco Wheats to the shopping list, and as hubby and I navigated the aisles of Publix, I headed to the cereal aisle with an air of assurance. My eyes scanned the offerings: Oatmeal in various shapes and forms, Cream of Wheat, Malt-o-Meal, grits.....argh!! Something was missing!

I was aghast that such a staple item would be absent. My husband scanned the shelves in case I had somehow skipped over the object of my desire. Soon he, too, had to admit defeat. There were no Coco Wheats to be had. My mind was boggled...could a food item that I had taken for granted throughout my entire childhood and on into adulthood really be just a regional fad?

Since my husband was slated to return to Chicago for work, I charged him with an important responsibility: Go to "da Jewels" (Chicago-speak for visiting the grocery store) and pick up a supply of my favorite hot cereal. Here in Celebration, I live without real Chicago style pizza (Beggars Pizza in Blue Island is the best) and genuine Chicago hot dogs (Portillos is good, but JR's has them beat, with the added bonus of an Orange Julius-type drink with the explosive name "Orange Bang"). But everyone has their limits...I cannot survive without Coco Wheats!

Hubby dutifully fulfilled his task, and I descended on him like a locust, snatching the precious box from his clutches practically before I gave him a "welcome home" kiss. He also told me that he had looked up the official Coco Wheats website and discovered that it might be available at Wal-Mart. Publix is a lost cause; supposedly you can request it from the store manager, who then must order it through "Gourmet Award Foods." That seems a little complicated for a chocolate cream of wheat knock-off.

It's strange to see the things that Publix carries (or doesn't); another impossible-to-find item is good old potato dumplings. Being of Austrian/Hungarian descent, I need a fix of turkey paprikash on a fairly regular basis. (Yes, I know it's traditionally made with chicken, but hubby is allergic to chicken meat so we use the next-closest option.) Dumplings are an essential component of paprikash, and in Chicago they were readily available at the Jewel grocery store.

Here in Florida, the Publix closest to Celebration didn't carry them, but we found them at one a little farther down the road. In this area, the number of Publix stores rivals the number of Starbucks shops in the Chicago Loop...I can easily rattle off four or five located within a few miles of each other on 192. But for some unknown reason, that store abruptly quit carrying the coveted dumplings. Now all they have are some gross noodle-like things. My husband, who is the cook in our house, has had to learn to make his own out of Bisquick (just wait till I hit him up for traditional German farina dumplings!).

Oh well, even though dumplings are still a challenge, at least I have my Coco Wheats fix for now. And even though I think of it as a winter food, it sure tastes a heck of a lot better gazing out the window at swaying palm trees in the middle of December!

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11 comments:

Redneck Barbie said...

You're in the South now. Eat grits.

Anonymous said...

I love Coco Wheats, too, and can't usually find them in Colorado where I live. I have to have mine shipped from family in North Dakota. The lengths we go to.

Anonymous said...

We also love Coco Wheats and are from the western suburbs of Chicago. We have searched high and low for the yummy cereal, to no avail. So it has been added to our " When you come down to visit" list. We also live in Central Florida ( Solivita ) and miss a lot of great food from the North. We travel back and forth to Chicago with a cooler as one of our checked pieces of luggage. Gotta love that Chi Town Cuisine!

Anonymous said...

We also love Coco Wheats and are from the western suburbs of Chicago. We have searched high and low for the yummy cereal, to no avail. So it has been added to our " When you come down to visit" list. We also live in Central Florida ( Solivita ) and miss a lot of great food from the North. We travel back and forth to Chicago with a cooler as one of our checked pieces of luggage. Gotta love that Chi Town Cuisine!

Anonymous said...

We also love Coco Wheats and are from the western suburbs of Chicago. We have searched high and low for the yummy cereal, to no avail. So it has been added to our " When you come down to visit" list. We also live in Central Florida ( Solivita ) and miss a lot of great food from the North. We travel back and forth to Chicago with a cooler as one of our checked pieces of luggage. Gotta love that Chi Town Cuisine!

Anonymous said...

Come on you guys, you can all get Coco Wheats (and a lot of other good stuff from the old days) at ShopFoodEx.com.

Anonymous said...

38 years old living to in Orlando. Grew up eating Coco Wheats in PA.

Have 3 kids now, I ordered a case from the manufacture this morning.

http://www.littlecrowfoods.com/products/cocowheats/

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the info!!I grew up on cocoa wheats in Ohio as my children also. My grandkids live here now also and they love it. However as we were getting it at Publix and Walmart only for the last 3 years they have now quit seeling it again. So my mission is to order a case also as the last person who posted. Thanks

Anonymous said...

We live in the Orlando area as well and just purchased 12 28oz boxes of Coco Wheats directly from their online website for a total of $3.00 per box (that includes the shipping fee to Orlando!). We were going to have family buy a bunch of in PA and bring it to us, but it is actually cheaper to buy via the internet!!! The website is http://www.littlecrowfoods.com/front.asp
Click on "Little Crow Store" and then look for the "Order online" button. Happy eating!!!

Anonymous said...

I love COCO Wheats and so does my daughter. I live in Maryland and I too have them shipped to me from family in North Dakota!

Anonymous said...

We love Coco Wheats! Born and raised in Michigan, we moved to Melbourne Fl. And I can't find my beloved Coco Wheats!
I asked my son in Indiana to send me some but he also can not find it there!
Whats going on? We need to protest!