I grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska. I was a busy child, and an even busier teen. I woke up early to take care of my horse, and often had early school events. In junior high, I was a member of the roller skating club and we had early practices which meant I was at school at least three hours before the sun rose. In later years I had math tutoring or maybe an early workout at the gym. My dad was a big support. I would get myself up, but he would always make me oatmeal. Sometimes it was the packets from Quaker, sometimes, it was a batch from scratch. Those dark and freezing cold, early mornings after running out to the barn, were much more bearable once I could smell the oatmeal and warm my hands on the steaming bowl. Usually I would add raisins and a little brown sugar.
Once I was out on my own, I turned oatmeal into a high art. I added walnuts and fresh fruit. I experimented with the ratio of cinnamon to brown sugar. I tried mixing in other grains, drawing the line at chia seeds. I attempted baked oatmeal which seemed more cookie bar than breakfast. My father-in-law, who had a very strong aversion to oatmeal after WWII, claimed he could eat my oatmeal because he liked my additions. These days, when I make oatmeal from scratch, I’ll cook it all the way, scoop out a portion for my son (who doesn’t like cooked fruit) and then add chopped apples or banana, fresh or frozen blueberries or peaches or some combination of the above. I’ll put a jar of Roland’s favorite walnuts and a jar of almonds on the table along with brown sugar and milk. We all have our preferences, but it gets us around the table at the same time and I’m content with that.
One oatmeal hack that works for Abi and I is preparing a big batch of steel cut oats on a Sunday. The batch keeps in the fridge for a couple days and we scoop out portions to reheat in the microwave for breakfast or lunch until it’s gone. Abi is her mother’s daughter, as she’s an early riser and participating in early morning activities. I may not get up at the crack of dawn to make her oatmeal, but at least it’s waiting for her when she wants it. My dad is 91 years-old and still makes me oatmeal when I visit him in Fairbanks. He’s a little creaky as he walks around the kitchen, but it’s one way he can still show his love.