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#FoodWriteNow #1: Odious Oatmeal

(* During the first year of the pandemic, Julia Turshen (@turshen) hosted daily food writing classes on her Instagramwith writing prompts and special guests. Given that I’ve been away from writing for far too long, I figured I’d give it a go. Follow her for more things to do while you’re practicing social distancing!)

Prompt for Wed. 3/18: What is a food you used to dislike, but now you like? When + how did that change happen?

“The ambulance is on the way,” she said turning to me while I lay on her bed crying in pain. My mother returned the phone to her ear and continued, “911? Yes that’s right. My son refuses to eat his oatmeal. Can you please bring extra IV bags and your largest set of needles? Twenty minutes? Great!” I cried even harder. If there was anything worse than my parents’ oatmeal, it was the fear of being forced to consume it via needles through my veins.

Of course intravenous oats is physically impossible, not to mention that the Saudi ambulances had far more pressing matters to attend to than a petulant child who refused his daily oats. But the woman who had me believe that bacon really was made from turkey (pork is illegal in the Kingdom) can be quite convincing. In my defense, their oatmeal was an affront to the culinary community: gray, flavorless, random lumps of mush floating in a semi-slimy swamp of skim milk and scant honey that’s hardened in the tepid mix. The stuff that came out of the dark blue tin where the Quaker smiled with evil intent was nowhere near the deliciously processed instant variety that came in brown packets filled with unknown powders. This was cruel and unusual punishment. Whole grain torture my dad insisted was good for our bodies (though detrimental to our souls).

I refused to touch oatmeal in the years following unless it was the instant variety, blended into a protein shake, or under the duress of a work meeting I was running late to. It was my firm belief that oatmeal was beyond redemption. Until I met Frank Prisinzano (IG: @frankprisinzano).

“Having a good oatmeal up your sleeves will make your kids happy”. Sure Frank. Tell that to childhood me, forever scarred by visions of lumpy grains flowing coursing through my blood. Who was this guy talking about how *gasp* “luxurious” oatmeal is on Instagram? But seeing as his other methods have proven themselves, I decided to give them ago.

I won’t go through the ecstasy of finally tasting what a good bowl of oatmeal feels like. For other skeptics out there, the pleasure in your next bowl of (proper) oatmeal is proportional to your disbelief in it, so just trust a recent convert and take a chance. Remember:

  • Always add salt. It makes a lot more difference than you’d think.
  • Add cream. The fat content of a few dashes is hardly worth the disappointment of using skim milk.
  • Always sweeten your oatmeal. The enjoyment of good quality maple syrup or dark brown sugar far exceeds the guilt that pushes you to use crap honey or worse, no sweeteners at all.
  • Get creative. You don’t have to add baloney or soy sauce like my brother once did (true story), but if frozen blueberries, black sesame, or pistachios are what you’re feeling, do it.
  • NEVER ever threaten your children with talk of ambulances or needles. They’ll miss out on a lot of good food.
Filed under: Snack

About the Author

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Paolo Española is a wandering diner in search of a good meal and an ever-elusive identity. He started this blog during a soul-crushing stint as an Accountant and later co-founded Hidden Apron, his side project that’s dabbled in everything from private catering, hosting pop-up dinners, podcasting, and everywhere in between. He is a contributing author to the best-selling cookbook, “The New Filipino Kitchen” and believes that food is a universal language that can solve the world's most challenging problems, help people believe in their own potential, create communities to shared stories, and realize that in Breaking Bread, we Break Boundaries.


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