Oatmeal. A simple joy.
What you see here is a serving for Mary. What you don’t see is that she never eats oatmeal at the table this dish is sitting on. Back in March I’d blogged about how Mary and I have morning coffee in bed every day. On weekends, or weekdays like yesterday, she also gets breakfast in bed. Oatmeal is one of our mainstays for these meals. She might also get a fried egg sandwich, or an omelet, or even a full-blown breakfast of eggs, hash browns, thick slab bacon and toast or biscuits. But as long as I feel rested enough, she’ll at least get one of these servings of oatmeal.
You have to start with a decent oatmeal. Oatmeal’s cheap, so forget getting store-branded stuff. To get the right flavor and texture, I get the Old-Fashioned Quaker Oats in the round box. (Nope, not even their Quick Oats! To me, it’s not the same.) For Mary and I, I take the instructions for 2 servings on the box and double it, using water instead of milk, and Kosher salt where salt is called for. I always cook it on the stove top, boiling it rapidly, while stirring constantly, until the water is barely gone. It then goes right into the bowls you see in the picture. I top it with dark brown sugar, some dried cranberries and pats of unsalted Land-O-Lakes butter, serving it with coffee in mugs from Blaze! All American Diner in Temperance.
You may have noticed this post is also under the category for Camp Cooking. Not only is this an excellent meal for camping, but I have a bit of a story to tell …
Back in 1979, I was working in the kitchen at what was then Camp Martin Johnson in Irons, Michigan. One Sunday morning, the lead cook got the idea to serve oatmeal to the campers who wanted it. We got it all set up in the 10-gallon bowl steamer off to the side of the kitchen, got it going on a slow cook … and promptly forgot about it …
We served breakfast, got everything cleaned up, and went into making lunch. Lunch came and went, with over a hundred satisfied campers and staff, and we got all that cleaned up. We then started serving dinner … when one of the prep cooks asked, “Hey, why is the steamer hot? And what’s that smell??”
That’s how slowly the steamer had cooked the oatmeal. It had dried out slowly during the day, had become pungent, and the vapors were just then leaking from the edges of the lid. We made the mistake of opening it indoors at first … and everyone started gagging.
The cook and I hefted the bowl off the steamer and manhandled it down the stairs and out the door. Over by the Dumpster, we set it down and pulled the lid … and gagged some more. We grabbed the handles, got under it, hefted it to our shoulders, and heaved it over the edge of the Dumpster … and the cook slipped.
Before we knew it, rancid over-cooked oatmeal was everywhere, including on us. We stood there, gagging, laughing, and gagging some more. It served us right to be wearing the stuff. After we stopped cracking up, we grabbed a couple shovels and shoveled the stuff from the ground into the Dumpster. It took two washings to get the steamer’s stainless steel bowl cleaned, and we both had to throw our shirts away because of the permanent stench.
I love oatmeal, especially when it’s cooked correctly and has that wonderful texture and flavor.
I just don’t like to wear it.