As the Fahrenheit fades, I crave a hot breakfast. Forget cold cereal. I want oatmeal—steaming, gooky stuff without which autumn cannot make its appearance. I want real oatmeal, foaming and bubbling on the stove, not the nuked instant counterfeit with its alien lumps.
“Just because,” to quote my mother.
Oatmeal occupied a sacred place in my childhood. I liked the smiling Quaker on the box and his grandfatherly TV advice: “Nothing is better for thee than me.” Scientists have supported his claim: a generous daily serving of oatmeal not only lowers cholesterol and cures the common cold, but guarantees a killing in the stock market.
Who would have thunk it, back when Mom was making my doll chairs from the friendly Quaker’s round boxes?
During the 1960s, milk and sugar were added to oatmeal. Period.
We regarded oatmeal the same way we viewed our mothers: they were good for us, whether we liked them or not. They couldn’t be improved, so if we were smart, we didn’t mess with them.
However, a whole new oatmeal mentality has evolved. Shh! Don’t tell anyone, but even I no longer qualify as an oatmeal purist.
My descent into decadence began when I persuaded my reluctant children to eat oatmeal with raisin smiley faces. Of course, some people never appreciate true culinary art.
One morning, my husband said, “Rachael, you really don’t have to make a smiley face on my oatmeal.”
Undaunted, I have continued bold experimentation and regularly mix my oats with almonds, apples and dried cranberries. I sprinkle in bran because Internet health experts promise this combination causes a gravity reversal. My saggy stomach and I can’t wait to be weightless.
Strangely enough, posh restaurants still serve oatmeal with few accoutrements. No mysterious yellow sauce lattices a platter under my bowl. No green clumps sprout from my breakfast like crabgrass.
Privately, however, the oatmeal world is going crazy. According to one website, connoisseurs add honey, cocoa, even ice cream. Others concoct even more interesting combinations, including oatmeal with pesto and mushrooms. Vegetable lovers add pumpkin, squash, spinach and [eww!] pickles. One blog writer sighs for banana curry oatmeal with carmelized onions.
Whatever happened to the staunch, wholesome dish that set me straight every morning? How will our descendants learn to cherish the values that made this country great if they are consuming oatmeal with Quark cheese and fresh herbs?
No wonder present generations waste time and energy doing things like writing about oatmeal preferences (2,364 people—158 pages worth—on one website). Imagine sitting around all morning writing about oatmeal.
They really should get a life.