It is surprising, in a way, that I still like oats. I do not just like oats; I love oats.
I like a bowl of oatmeal in the morning, creamy and hot with cold white milk and sweet brown sugar. I like oatcakes, rich and caramelly. I like apple crisp, crunchy sweet oats, and sharp tart apples exploding on the tongue. Then there is oatmeal bread, oatmeal biscuits, oatmeal...
The first time I prepared oatmeal myself, I would have been around seven years old.
I awoke that morning to a riot of birds singing in the trees just outside the open window. The house was silent. This was unusual. I tiptoed to my parent's room only to find an empty bed. I tiptoed downstairs to find an empty kitchen, an empty bathroom, an empty house.
There were no adults on the premises that morning, a strange experience.
In the next hour or so, the rest of the little people in the house began to appear in the kitchen.
We waited for an adult to appear. No one came.
After several hours, I made the decision to provide. Out came the cooking pot and the tall round oatmeal box. I could read the instructions but the abbreviations were a complete mystery to me, tsp., tbsp. I did my best guestimation. The oatmeal was creamy and smelled delicious. I served it into bowls. I placed the milk on the table; along with a spoon and the bag of brown sugar, setting them in the middle. Breakfast was served.
I called the other little people to the set table and proudly turned to the sink to soak the now empty pot.
The sounds coming from behind me, from the direction of the table, were not those I had expected. In fact, the exclamations were quite shocking. The consensus was that the oatmeal "tasted bad". Busy at the sink I suggested adding more sugar. They did. It did not help.
Finally finished at the sink I took my place at the table, poured the white liquid into my steaming bowl of oatmeal, sprinkled on the crumbly brown sweetness, and took my first bite.
They were right! It did taste bad, horrible in fact. I was devastated.
Hours later, an adult appeared on the scene. An Aunt had been called in to check on us; my parents had been in a car accident during the night. They returned several days later.
The other little people eagerly told the Aunt all about the horrid oatmeal. They relished the story. The Aunt cleared up the mystery. A tsp. of salt is not, it seems, the same amount of salt that fits nicely into the bowl of a large wooden spoon. In my humiliation, I learned the lesson of carefully following instructions while cooking.
I am older now, but I still like oatmeal and I measure recipe ingredients very carefully indeed.
And oh yes, I am still quite sensitive to the opinions of food critics.
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