Thursday, May 1, 2008

Oatmeal - The Mortar of the Family

I love oatmeal. I grew up with it. I can remember every now and then, Mom would get the little packets of instant oatmeal at the store. It was a challenge to remember which kind you liked from the last time you had them. My favorite is Cinnamon and Spice (or is it Raisins and Spice?). Back in those days, only Quaker made the little packages and so it was expensive. It was a rare treat when Mom bought the flavored oatmeal and we went through it like locusts through a wheat field.

Now that I am a grown up, I eat the regular stuff -- less sugar, more nutrition. I encourage my kids to flavor their own oatmeal. We have cinnamon, spices, raisins...they wrinkle their noses and tell me it's just not the same. And it isn't. I can't lie to you. I remember my mom telling us to do the same thing and John and me telling her, it just wasn't the same. I wonder what addictive substance they put in Quaker Instant Oatmeal.

To use up all the regular oatmeal we wouldn't eat, Mom also used to make the fabulous Oatmeal Scotchies. They were oatmeal cookies with butterscotch bits in them. She liked to bake them up hard so that they would absorb more milk when you dunked them. Yes, we are cretins. To this day, Oatmeal Scotchies are what you make on a cold, winter day. But, I make them softer than she does. Every now and then, Mom would send them to school with us as breakfast. Heck, they were probably better for us than the packets of instant oatmeal we so ardently desired.
Then along came Michael. Michael's family had another recipe for oatmeal cookies: Aunt Maggie's Oatmeal Cookies. Aunt Maggie was my mother-in-law's aunt and had developed this recipe during the depression (I think...correct me if I'm wrong, guys). This recipe is a blue ribbon winning recipe that mixes up and is put into the icebox to chill before slicing and baking. And, they are SO good. But, it is a completely different kind of cookie. Instead of being and "OATMEAL cookie" it is an "oatmeal cookie" (using only 1 cup of oats for the whole batch as opposed to 3 cups in a traditional recipe). They are very popular everywhere we take them, but only Michael makes them. I have not perfected the art. I am not patient enough to let them chill.

Oatmeal is a funny thing. It tends to remind me of home, comfort, stability all those things that we all long for and try our best to recreate for our families as we grow older. It is sort of a cement that ties, past to present and future. Something that is passed from generation to generation.

But, if your child forgets to wash out their oatmeal bowl, you will discover that oatmeal is another kind of cement, too! You will be blasting it off forever, using your elbow grease, and then the green scrubber, and finally moving to the steel or copper mesh scrubber you use for the cast iron. Yes, oatmeal is not just figuratively a cement for the family, it can be quite literally a cement for the family.

I am convinced that the Ancient Egyptians were on to this connection and used oatmeal to mortar the pyramids together. What better way to show that the family was going with you to paradise than with 2 tons of dried oatmeal?

Supposing that this is actually true, do you think that I will ever be able to get this bowl clean?

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