Monday, July 18, 2016

Oatmeal as undiscovered country

Today's slice of life belongs in a bowl.

I enjoy cooking, and I like reading the occasional cookbook or recipe blog. I used to love reading such texts. However, I eventually arrived at a point -- as most home cooks do -- where riffing independently on internalized recipes and past kitchen experiences became preferable, even liberating. This new-found freedom came with its own downside: the solidifying of boundaries around my cooking comfort zone. Certain wildcards could shake me out of this zone, such as rogue produce dealt in the weekly community-supported agriculture (CSA) delivery or a new alluring ingredient on my culinary radar (gochujang, say). I still enjoy cooking; it just doesn't seem to pack as many surprises these days.

That explains my delight with a bowl of oatmeal I made last week. The cupboard was bare of usual breakfast staples, but I knew of a paltry baggie with steel-cut oats. To that, I'd typically add some fresh fruit, which we didn't have. Necessity, meet invention. My cooking brain settled on some stray carrots in the fridge. I wondered: Could I make oatmeal with the flavor profile of carrot cake? Turns out I could. I avoided the temptation to search online for recipes; I wanted to figure out this one on my own. (I later let Google show me 163,000 recipes for "carrot cake oatmeal" in .42 seconds!) I simmered together the oats and grated carrots. I sweetened with light doses of molasses, honey, and brown sugar. I seasoned with generous cinnamon, plus dashes of clove, nutmeg, salt. I tossed in handfuls of raisins and toasted walnuts. (I'm realizing I should give the allegedly bare cupboard more credit...) At the just-right moment of thickness, I ladled out the porridge and threw caution to the wind: I topped each bowl with a spoonful of plain cream cheese -- a nod to carrot cake's magical frosting.

Breakfast was served, my love for cooking's creativity and alchemy rekindled.


13 comments:

  1. How delightful is your writing, your creativity, your cooking magic and your decision to share it all with us. You might even get me more interested in oatmeal as a result!

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  2. What a wonderful breakfast bowl! I believe I could enjoy it. And thanks for making me smile.

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  3. i love oatmeal. it is so good if prepared well!

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  4. Delightful piece! Not just about oatmeal, but about becoming reinvigorated with creativity. By not researching but relying on your own efforts. Making oatmeal as metaphor for so much!

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  5. Your opening line is perfect!
    Kevin

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  6. Your piece made me think about my dad, who made the best oatmeal in a double boiler. He never added carrots, though. This was a great slice!
    P.S. I once made pumpkin pie with carrots, when pumpkin was unavailable. It was a little more orange than a traditional pie, but was spiced to perfection.

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    1. Carrot pie - genius! And, yes, culinary memories are heady stuff... Just ask Marcel Proust or Calvin Trillin :)

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  7. Cleverly crafted - the oatmeal and the slice! I enjoyed the line when you realized you had slighted the cupboard. I read this while eating my daily egg white sandwich which I'm sure pales in comparison to the flavors described in the carrot cake oatmeal!!!

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    1. Let us not scoff at the simple beauty of a well-made egg sandwich ;)

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  8. Cleverly crafted - the oatmeal and the slice! I enjoyed the line when you realized you had slighted the cupboard. I read this while eating my daily egg white sandwich which I'm sure pales in comparison to the flavors described in the carrot cake oatmeal!!!

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  9. I have been playing with oatmeal this summer as a friend introduced me to overnight oatmeal. Now I am eager to try out more creative flavor combinations!

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    1. I have heard of the wonders of overnight oatmeal & may have to explore further when summer's leisure soon give way to the hustle/bustle of school.

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  10. That sounds delicious! I love your writing, and congratulations on your alchemy accomplished :)

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