Sunday, February 19, 2006

Oat Mealy-mouthed

I’ve been trying it for a few days now and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. I am talking, of course, about eating oatmeal for breakfast.

In an effort to do the right thing for myself and to live a bit healthier, I have been eating oatmeal for breakfast for the past few days. This is likely good for my heart, but it’s a strange and sad start to my day, because I hate oatmeal.

I bought the oatmeal in the little packets that include powdery stuff that’s supposed to taste like apple, cinnamon, or banana, and I suppose that helps me deal with the bowlful. But I still can’t psyche myself into believing it’s going to taste good, each time I stir in some milk before heating a bowl of the sorry-looking mush in the microwave. It looks like generic horse feed, and tastes about as good.

There’s something about the mushiness of oatmeal that makes the back of my throat tickle a bit, like I might retch. This physical reaction makes it hard for me to choke down the stuff. I blame it on a congenital fastidiousness in this one regard. But I also blame it on my early, horrific experiences with dumplings.

I’m not talking about Asian dumplings, filled with yummy meats. And I’m certainly not talking about Slavic dumplings, also known as pirohy, which I prefer slathered with an onion-butter sauce. The dumplings that had such singularly bad effects on my palate were some bland, tasteless lumps of dough that my mom regularly prepared for my family when we kids were growing up. Those wannabe “dumplings” resembled not fully cooked watery bread, and they were rudely plopped onto my plate instead of a trustworthy potato.

The dumplings always reminded me of the mess that poor Oliver was begging for more of in the movie Oliver Twist. After a meal that included my mom’s dumplings, if I watched that movie not too long afterward, I’d tear up for poor little Oliver, having to eat dumplings every day.

My mother is an excellent cook, and even when I was young she rarely would flub a meal and not get it right. She was actually preparing those evil dumplings according to the recipe, and I recall that my dad was the one who really liked them. But I couldn’t swallow them, much less stomach them. I would try to eat the dumplings, because the consequences of not eating them could be severe. But as I would try to swallow them, I’d feel like I was going to puke, put my hand over my mouth and spit the stuff back out. I started this routine probably when I was around seven or eight.

At first my dad went according to his familiar game plan, making me stay at the table after dinner until I pushed all of the dumplings down my gullet. That didn’t work, because no amount of time would make the gray lumps of dough edible, so I’d fall asleep at the table, my head in my plate of dumplings. Finally he just gave up, and on chicken and dumplings nights, I got a potato instead of dumplings, as were served to my parents and 11 siblings.

That’s how I changed the family dinner menu, basically erasing dumplings from it. When everybody saw that I got a potato on dumpling night, everybody, dad included, decided they preferred a potato. My nascent rebelliousness, at 8 years old, had helped to change family dinner policy for the better.

But I digress.

When it comes to oatmeal, I try to tasty it up with some fruit, burying the mush in bananas. It helps some, giving a consistency to the watery mash and making it a bit easier for me to swallow. The next-to-best part of the meal is the last spoonful of banana. The best part is when I finish the bowl.

Maybe oatmeal is so good for your heart partly because it gives an oatmeal-hater more patience, slowing down his heart rate at the same time. I will continue to eat my mushy oatmeal, though I doubt I’ll ever really savor it. I just wish they could make it so that it tasted like a potato.


Sam said...

OK. Step away from the pantry. Slowly. Then immediately set it on fire if there is any instant oatmeal left.

Never, under any circumstances, eat instant oatmeal.

I am not saying to go whole hog and buy the stuff you have to soak overnight, or the stuff that you have to cook for half an hour. Just get yerself a canister of good ole Quaker Oats, the "old fashioned" kind. I think they take three minutes to cook. You can do it while the coffee is brewing.

And forget about the flavor powder. Get a little brown sugar and cinnamon. This combo cannot be beat. It is so good, in fact, that I often cook the oats in water and don't bother adding milk.

Now--get a fire extinguisher and deal with the pantry. As long as the awful instant oatmeal has been consumed by the fire.

Ol' Froth said...

Interestingly, I LOVE oatmeal (must be my Irish genes). Then I found out the stuff was killing me. Apparently, my blood chemistry demands a low carb diet. No bread, no pasta, no potatos, no oatmeal. =(

michele said...

Why not try BAKED oatmeal? It tastes just like a yummy, warm, gooey oatmeal cookie. Even better topped with blueberries or peaches. Of course, I doubt it has any health benefits but you can't have everything.

Jonathan Barnes said...

Why not oatmeal COOKIES for breakfast?

CLR said...

Try toasted oats. I take old fashioned Quaker oats, spread them thinly in a baking pan and cook them for 15 minutes at 385. Then I eat them with plain, non-fat yogurt. If you actually toss in some sliced fruit, it ends up being pretty tasty. I find the toasty crispness much, much preferable to mushy oatmeal.