“We need something no one will ever guess. Something like… oatmeal!” I still remember being impressed with Anne’s choice of password for our carefully constructed blanket and pillow fort. What a perfectly normal and bland sort of word. It was downright unguessable and totally lacking in magic. It was perfect.
I can’t remember whether we were trying to keep older or younger siblings from crashing our fort that day, but twenty years later, and in a much more password driven society, I still think of her pronouncing oatmeal, and how we both knew instantly it was perfect. I had previously offered the much more exotic “pineapple,” but quickly recognized that I had been bested.
On the occasional Saturday morning my mom would make us all a big pot of oatmeal. My sister and I used oatmeal as a vehicle for brown sugar, a habit we developed by emulating our dad and his impressive sweet tooth. We’d pile teaspoon after teaspoon into the bowl, watching the crystals dissolve beneath the surface of the milk. Once the sugar was no longer visible, you needed another spoonful. We’d create hidden mountains studded throughout the bowl, and you weren’t done until you could actually see the top of all your brown sugar peaks, poking out through the milk. Then it was safe to swirl the whole thing up and devour the delicious sugary mess.
My mom would always tell us that her father liked his oatmeal with butter and salt. Well on our way to an epic Saturday morning sugar high, we found salt and butter on oatmeal utterly unimaginable and well… gross. While I’m occasionally tempted by savory oatmeal recipes, I’ve yet to pull the trigger.
These days oatmeal is high in my breakfast rotation, along with this Pear, Cranberry and Wheat Berry bowl or a Green Ginger Lemonade. I make the steel cut oats in the morning, 1/3 cup of oats to 1 cup of water and just a dash of salt. As I run through the house getting ready, I stir them every time I buzz past the stove. I usually catch them just the far side of done, when they’ve started sticking to the pot and browning. Everything gets scraped out into a Mason jar, and I seal it all up and bring the whole thing to work. Once there it gets topped with soy milk, perhaps a banana and some almond butter, all melted together in the microwave. (Explaining to a co-worker that you’re melting a banana in the microwave will cause the same quizzical looks you can expect should you be poaching an egg in that same microwave come lunchtime.)
The oatmeal, banana, maple almond butter combination is better still on the weekend when it’s completely unrushed. Far better to be enjoying the almond butter melting into the sweetness of the banana tempered with the slight chew from the oats over a book or with some company, than to be quickly shoveling in the oats while typing up an email at work.