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.