ode to oatmeal

Odd, the things that will spark a memory. Like oatmeal, for example.

Growing up, our house was not so big that kitchen clatter went unnoticed, especially in my bedroom directly above. On cold mornings, my mother often prepared a warm breakfast. The clang of pots and pans and clash of cutlery was my alarm clock, signaling time to get ready for school. It was a gracious start to the day, devoid of electronic beep or buzz. I still prefer a non-alarming awakening, thank you very much.

Mom’s breakfast of choice was Cream of Wheat. I found it grainy and bland, nearly tasteless. I used the sugar bowl liberally to ease passage, white dissolving into white. Sometimes, Mom prepared oatmeal. Whether quick or whole oats the outcome was the same — a glutinous, mushy mash. A generous helping of brown sugar topped off with milk made it more palatable.

Later, there were individualized servings in packets of instant oatmeal. (Microwaves were slow appearing on the scene but we knew how to boil water!) The outcome was not much improved except that there were tidbits of fruit or spices to trick our taste buds. I liked apple cinnamon the best.

My sisters and I didn’t complain but I don’t know that I ever thanked my mother for her early morning duties. I should have. Anyone who makes an extra effort to fill another belly with warm food is to be commended. It’s not my mother’s fault that I didn’t care for warm cereal. At least, as a kid, I didn’t think I did.

As an adult, I was surprised to discover differently when a dear friend introduced me to steel-cut oats, otherwise known as Irish oats. They looked more like a grain I might have fed my pony than something I should eat myself. (The 1970s effect lingers, even now.) They also took considerably longer to cook. However, served “Alaskan style” the overall impact was spectacular. These oats have a satisfying nutty texture. Topped off with crunchy pecans, berries bursting with flavor, a dollop of maple syrup and a dab of cream, it is a yummy-licous start to the day. And most definitively, not my mother’s oatmeal.

~René Morley

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