Monday, January 30, 2017

My Oatmeal

I will share with you my special method for eating oatmeal. I cook it the night before with a little bit of miso paste. Miso contains enzymes which break down the starch in the oats, and if allowed to sit at room temperature overnight, a bowl of oats inoculated with miso will turn sweeter and milkier than any you've ever had.

It has to be the right kind of miso, the young kind, it won't be any good at all if you use aged and salty miso. Young miso is sweet and light, like butterscotch almost, which I don't like. I don't like sweets, but I do like it when things that aren't meant to be sweet are sweet. Like bacon, salad dressing, scrambled eggs next to pancakes when you purposely let some of the syrup touch the curds. Or just scramble them with sliced dates as they do in the Middle East. Other cultures seem to understand better about commingling their sweets and their savouries.

The oats: steel cut, always. I let them bubble away on the stove for half an hour or so, then turn off the heat and let them cool just a bit before I add the miso. The oats always congeal as they cool, but when I stir in the miso they loosen back up again as the enzymes begin to act immediately. The effect is quite magical, and I often call Mike in to witness it. When the miso is sufficiently mixed, I cover the pot, lick the spoon, and leave them be.

In the morning I re-heat the oats and prepare the following accoutrements:

  1. A ripe banana, cold from the fridge. I leave half on the counter for Mike to add to his cereal when he wakes up. The other half I cut into slices and fan them out in a small rectangular tupperware (this container allows me to easily capture each banana slice by trapping it between my spoon and the vertical wall).
  2. Black sesame, ground over the sliced bananas from a spice mill.
  3. Salt after the sesame—salt is very good on a ripe, sweet banana.
  4. Walnuts—toasted, of course. Walnuts are better than almonds or really any other nuts, and nothing goes better with bananas than walnuts, except maybe salt. And these, these aren't just any walnuts. I make them in a very particular way, which anyone who tastes them says are the best walnut they've ever had. I break up my magic walnuts one by one and arrange them atop the banana slices according to size—larger walnut pieces on thicker banana slices and so on. When all the bananas have their walnut I remove one final walnut from the jar and set it ceremoniously atop Mike's banana half. If he happens to wake before I've left home, he'll try to goad from me another walnut. I usually acquiesce, but it pains me.
By now the oatmeal is hot. I take the long handled spoon I have been borrowing from a Korean restaurant for about seven years and peel off a wisp of butter. Then I hold the spoon over the bowl and pour just enough maple syrup to come to the lip of the spoon. Next, I pour the steaming oats into the bowl and stir so the butter and syrup dissolve. That is the preparation.

This is the eating: I set before me the bowl of oats and the tupperware with the bananas. I spoon up one walnut-topped banana slice and dip it into the hot oats briefly—I want a temperature contrast, not a mushy banana. Scoop, dip, bite, scoop, dip, bite, all the way through until I've eaten the last banana slice, at which point plenty of oats still remain to eat all by their splendid porridgy selves.

Thank goodness for a meal that is eaten alone so it may evolve over the years into precisely the thing you crave. I love a late Saturday morning scramble with buttered toast and a glass of grapefruit, but I also need time to enact my strangest impulses, and if this can be done in a domestic and routine setting, all the better. For then there is always space for it. It is never furtive. It is there, beckoning me from bed at 6:30am. It is there, when I go to sleep on a Tuesday with nothing in particular to look forward to the next day, it is there: my warm miso oats, milky miso oats with the cold bananas all fanned out in the Tupperware in two neat layers—three layers, perhaps, if the banana is large. It varies barely, but my allegiance to it is strong, my ritual, my breakfast, mine.


  1. you've dangled these magical walnuts before us - recipe/method?

    1. Why yes! Put a lot of walnuts in a big mixing bowl, add a big spoonful of salt, cover with hot water. Put a plate or a lid of some sort over the bowl, leave them soaking for 8 – 12 hours.

      Then strain and rinse the walnuts, and spread them out on a baking sheet. Sometimes I add rosemary or orange peel or other random things to the baking sheet. Put them in the oven at the lowest temperature possible, I usually do like 200 degrees. Leave them there until they are fully dehydrated, which can vary widely depending on how hot your oven is, but for me this usually takes 8 hours or so. The first time you make them you should do it on a day you plan to be home so you can check them every few hours, and once you know how long it takes you can leave them overnight or when you're at work or whatever.