Until recently, I’ve always associated oatmeal with the sickbed. Like lugaw, oatmeal porridge was something I was fed when I was too sick to eat regular food. The preparation never varied — boiled oatmeal with milk and sugar. It looked unappetizing; the mouth feel was even worse.
The trauma didn’t even end there. When I was pregnant with Alex and I couldn’t eat anything oily or salty, I was put on an oatmeal-and-cracker diet. I remember attending the birthday party of a friend and bringing crackers with me. At home, it was oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The preparation never varied either — boiled oatmeal with non-fat milk and a teeny bit of sugar. Alex was born prematurely and severely underweight.
So, I learned to hate oatmeal. All the raves about oatmeal as part of the “skinny diet” made it even more distasteful to me. The “skinny” campaign makes me sick. It’s one thing to campaign for healthy eating but it’s quite another thing to equate healthy with skinny. Along with the uber-Photoshopped magazine covers and the reed-thin catwalk “models”, diets with “skinny” goals simply send the wrong message to children and young adults. So, any blog or cookbook with “skinny” in the title, I ignore. Any recipe labeled as “skinny”, I ignore. If a recipe is healthy, I prefer that it be correctly categorized by whoever publishes it. “Skinny” may be a catchy marketing buzz word but it is not the same as healthy.
Okay, so that constitutes my multi-layered abhorrence for oatmeal. Until one day… one of those days when I felt too lazy to cook and there was a pot of steaming oatmeal on the stove — cooked by Speedy who loves oatmeal. I stared at the thick pale mush in the pot and, for some reason, something clicked. I ladled some of it into a bowl, dropped in a handful of dark chocolate morsels, stirred and I was literally mesmerized. I was watching the chocolate bits melt into the pale white mush, leaving dark trails as the spoon went ’round and ’round. In my mind, I knew that a magical transformation was taking place. Chocolate made everything better; why not oatmeal?
That was many, many moons ago. I have since learned a lot of other ways to make oatmeal exciting. Fresh fruits make oatmeal colorful and they add contrast in texture. Bits of roasted nuts are wonderful too. And, instead of sugar, I sweeten oatmeal with honey. Do I still add milk? Yes, sometimes, but I discovered that cream is better.
So, that’s oatmeal lesson number 1: Make your bowl of oatmeal less boring by adding things you love like chocolate, fresh fruits and nuts. Ditch the milk and sugar; add honey and cream instead.
But, wait! There is a lesson number two.
Making a porridge is not the only way to cook oatmeal. This, I have to thank Sam for. Ever since she went vegetarian, we had been making granola bars at home. One of the ingredients of granola bars is, of course, rolled oats. But we don’t make “skinny” granola bars. We make va-voooom granola bars with nuts, chocolate AND BUTTER (recipes here and here).
So, yes, I have exorcised my oatmeal demons. I now enjoy eating oatmeal in many ways, none of which is “skinny.”