I’ve liked oatmeal since I can remember, always hot with a generous pat of butter and a heaping spoonful of brown sugar. I sometimes have it with a little cream as well, which no doubt undoes all the touted heart-healthy benefits. I’ve had it with cinnamon and sugar, and I’ve had the instant oatmeal with maple-flavored sugar. But what I like best is old-fashioned oatmeal with butter and brown sugar. I prefer old-fashioned to quick oats because I like the chewier texture. My wife, however, prefers quick oats and likes to put them in cold water and bring it to a boil to make them even softer. To me, that’s like preferring the overcooked pasta you get in Chef Boyardee.
I also like oatmeal cookies, especially with raisins. My kids can’t stand raisins. I don’t try to persuade them; I just make oatmeal cookies with raisins and have them all to myself. Okay, I don’t do it very often, but it seems like a good idea when I do.
I’ve often wondered whether oatmeal is anything like the porridge I came across in fairy tales like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Dictionary.com defines porridge as “a food made of oatmeal, or some other meal or cereal, boiled to a thick consistency in water or milk.” Somehow, I always associated porridge with Cream of Wheat rather than oatmeal. Perhaps it is because my mom would take our left over Cream of Wheat and fry it in shortening the next morning and serve it with syrup the next morning. The porridge that was too cold always made me think of that: slabs of cold Cream of Wheat, refrigerated and kept for frying the next day. There never seemed to be left-over oatmeal, which I think tells you all you need to know about the relative merits of oatmeal and Cream of Wheat.