We had oatmeal for breakfast this morning. My husband is more into the “egg wrap burrito” type thing, but this morning he asked for oatmeal.
I keep the oatmeal, dispensed from the bulk food bin at the grocers, in a large glass pickle jar. To my dismay, there were only traces of rolled oats left. Apparently, while I was away for the weekend, my son and husband had eaten up the easy food, i.e. leftovers and oatmeal, both of them being easily whipped up in the microwave. This shortage left me no choice; I had to go for the big guns now. I reached to the back of the grains ‘n stuff drawer and pulled out –the Steel Cut Oats. This was a job for the Stove Burner. So I measured them into a pot, set it to simmering and got busy waiting for them to get done. Since that takes at least ten minutes, I got to thinking about oats.
I’ve done a little research on various foods. Being a Civil War reenactor, I wouldn’t want to present to the public eating the wrong thing. Cold breakfast cereals were way later than 1863, so that leaves the porridges. “Farina” was common (think Cream of Wheat) but seemed to make its way to the invalid room often. Oatmeal was regarded as food for children. Personally, it all came down to which was easier to clean up from a cook pot without a sink and hot running water. Oats won, but barely. Gummy and sticky, yes, but at least not gritty.
It’s ironic that, as a child my son wouldn’t touch oatmeal. Now that he’s 16, he likes it. We have a rule that everyone cleans out the gummy and sticky in their bowl before they put it in the dishwasher, since no one has been able to formulate a detergent to dissolve it completely.
We didn’t eat oatmeal as kids (unless you counted Quakers Original Oatmeal Cookies); we ate Wheat Hearts, with honey and raisins. The first time I was face to face with a bowl of oatmeal was in the 6th grade Science and Conservation Camp.
There were about 7 of us campers plus one counselor at each table. Campers took turns bringing the platters and bowls of food to their tables. Bacon, eggs, potatoes, milk. All those nice kid-friendly breakfast foods. But always there was the big white ceramic bowl full of oatmeal. It was stiff, and mounded in peaks. Its lumpy texture had a purplish-gray cast to it. The handle of a big steel serving spoon rose up from the middle. No one ever had any. That is, except the counselor. He made encouraging noises about it that you might expect from the wicked queen trying to talk Snow White into taking the apple.
If you don’t cook steel cut oats long enough, they are quite hard and crunchy. (see previous post about cooking birdseed) The best ones I ever had were at a friend’s slumber party (yes, grown women still have slumber parties!). She had put them in a crock pot with a little milk and let them cook all night long. Creamy! She had the right idea for dealing with gummy and sticky, she used a crock pot liner.
Finally, these oats are done. I like mine this way: Stir in raisins when they are just done. Sprinkle chopped toasted almonds evenly. Pour some cold milk over the top. Spoon it up so that each spoonful gets some of the cold milk and some of the hot oats. My husband likes a dollop of honey and a slab of butter. He says it helps grease them on the way down. I guess he is dealing with gummy and sticky in his own way.
1939 - Thimble Summer
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