savory oatmeal

  1. Near dinnertime, notice you are breaking out a bit on the chin area. Rapidly decide that this is due to consuming excess tabouli, i.e., wheat, rather than ascribing it to the imminence of your period.
  1. Get really hungry but FIRMLY ESCHEW the golden bag of rotini, nut-rich loaf of bread, box of tiny “everything” crackers, and various other Trader Joe’s bootleg food products you have on hand.
  1. Rake your brain/cupboards for a gluten-free grain. Notice your hands are trembling; wonder if your mind is too. Notice a certain cylinder of rolled oats. Feel a mixture of dread and intrigue uncoiling in your stomach, like Jordan Catalano just asked you to meet him under the bleachers after school. Is it lust, or famine? Can oatmeal be made . . . savory?

    “Oatmeal can be whatever you need it to be, little gal!”
  1. Burn another half hour looking at oatmeal recipes online. Find that Mark Bittman endorses savory oatmeal, claiming that he just sits around all the time eating it with soy sauce and scallions. (This is a little hard to visualize, this version of Mark Bittman—somehow, it’s easier to replace that bowl of green-flecked oatmeal with a selection of organic strawberries and a loaf of artisanal bread—but who are you to question him? Where is your New York Times food column?)
  1. Experience intense interior struggle, as some of these savory oatmeal recipes seem really weird. Oatmeal with Kalamata olives? Basil Pesto Oats? Savory Baked Oatmeal Skillet? “All of these recipes would taste so much more delicious if you subbed the oatmeal for brown rice,” your brain whispers. “Or even barley.” “Shut up brain,” you reply. “Let’s steal a roommate tomato so that you’re fueled to think about this properly.”tomato6-400Steal said tomato. Lean on the counter. Check the recipe article comments for assurance. When your boyfriend asks you what you’re doing, flee the room, tomato seeds all over your chin.

    Happy birthday, tomato idiot!
  1. Check the CHOW boards. Discover that savory oatmeal is beloved by many. Repeat to yourself, “It’s just another grain. IT’S JUST ANOTHER GRAIN.” Your stomach now hurts. Feel a yearning, down to your toes, for oatmeal with a scoop of plain whole-milk yogurt and a spoonful of brown sugar. Sigh, because you have neither of those toppings on hand.
  1. Swallow your misgivings; note they do not make you feel full. Open a can of chicken stock. Heat it, add oatmeal and thyme, and set aside. As the oatmeal cooks, grind black pepper into it, again and again. Never enough black pepper. Promise yourself that it will be good. Ignore the fact that you feel like a Faithless Promiser, the exact type of person you normally despise.
  1. Fry garlic with olive oil and mushrooms. More black pepper, a handful of spinach, half a squeezed lemon. This part smells and looks tasty. “This will complement the oatmeal,” you whisper. “This will be very hearty.” “What are you making?” your boyfriend asks. You can’t bring yourself to answer yet.
  1. Dump your mushrooms and spinach onto the thyme-y, simmering oatmeal. Fry an egg in the mushroom pan. You find yourself, yet again, adding more black pepper than is strictly necessary, as if black pepper is a charm against the inherent oatmeal-ness of oatmeal. Repeat your mantra: it’s just another grain.

    savory oatmeal 2
    Always with the black pepper in these pictures. But it is a trick.
  1. Fill your bowl with oatmeal, mushrooms, and spinach. Slide the egg atop it. Hover your hand above the black pepper grinder; resist temptation and add another squeeze of lemon instead. Tell yourself that this oatmeal smells very savory. Tell yourself that you are going to savor it. “Mmm, oatmeal. MMMM OATMEAL.”
  1. Lift a forkful to your mouth. Ignore the chips and hummus that your boyfriend is consuming. Bite.toddler-making-a-face
  1. Choke down roughly half your bowl, because you’re starving and because it’s at least hot. What does it taste like? It tastes like oatmeal. It tastes like the unholy union of oatmeal with chicken stock, stir fry, and excessive black pepper. It is not just another grain, it’s oatmeal and it sucks. It is not the friend of chicken, it is not the pal of olive oil. Mushrooms, garlic, egg, spinach, lemon—it knows them not. The charms of oatmeal, such as they are, bloom best in a dairy-enchanted environment, ranged with various dried and fresh fruits, studded with nuts of high provenance. Other flavors serve merely to make oatmeal taste . . . uncanny.
  1. Avoid doing the dishes for hours, even though you know how oatmeal tends to calcify when left to itself. Creep into the kitchen late at night. Your stockpot of oatmeal sits on the stove, uncovered and glue-y, redolent of broken promises and unfollowed dreams.sadness_164
  1. Take out a plastic container and begin scraping your oatmeal hash into it. Face reality and scrape it instead into the compost. Marinate in your failure for a moment, unable to face your stockpot. Wash it in the hottest water possible, singeing your fingers. Wonder where your life is going. What kind of person can’t even make savory oatmeal properly?
  1. Accept that you’ll never be a true Chowhound. Steal another tomato.