December 11, 2009

USA: Pop Pop and the Oatmeal

. PORTLAND, Maine / The Elder Storytelling Place / TimeGoesBy / December 11, 2009 By Nancy Leitz When our children were young, they ate a lot of oatmeal. The commercials on television constantly advised us that children needed a stick-to-their-ribs breakfast, so oatmeal was just the ticket. They all loved it, especially Jerry. I didn't use that "instant" oatmeal. Heaven forbid. Nothing but the "start from scratch" stuff was good enough for our kids. So, I would buy Mother's Oats in the big round, red and blue box with the lovely mother and her son pictured on the front. One thing about buying Mother's Oats was unusual and I want to mention it because I think the very same thing is happening today in our supermarkets. It is this: You can find all sorts of "impulse" items at eye level on your local store shelves. You see smoked oysters in a jar, brie cheese with a recipe attached for making brie membrillo and Asian pear crostini and long stemmed Luxardo Gourmet maraschino cherries for your cocktails. For any of these it is just a matter of extending your hand toward the shelf and the item will practically jump into your cart. But, you want Mother's Oats? Bottom shelf, all the way in the back. You have to kneel down on the floor in front of the shelf, push aside the Post Baled Hay (I mean shredded wheat) and reach as far as your arm will go and maybe, just maybe, there will be a box of Oats there. True? But to get back to the way I prepared those Mother's Oats for the kids. I would put the water and salt (not too much) in the saucepan and wait for it to boil. Then I would add the Mother's oats and begin to stir - and stir - and stir. I stirred that oatmeal until every single grain was as fine as silk. If I felt a single clump I would press it against the side of the pan and smooth it all out. By the time it was ready for putting into bowls, it was a delight to behold. Ah! Creamy white with brown flecks of oats throughout. Then into the bowls it would go and the warmed milk was just waiting to be added (whole milk - not 2% or 1% or watery skim milk). Delicious! One September, Roy and I decided to drive to California. We expected to be on the road for a few weeks and my Mother and Dad (Mom Mom and Pop Pop McGarvey) volunteered to live in our house with the children while we were gone. The kids were crazy about Mom Mom and Pop Pop and the feelings were very mutual. My parents loved to stay with the kids because they enjoyed each others' company so much. So we left on our trip and called every night (no cell phones in those days) from wherever we were. Everything was usually fine at home and we had no worries. When we got home after three weeks, everybody was happy to see us and we were thrilled to see them, too. I think Mom Mom and Pop Pop were ready to go home to their quiet apartment, but they pretended that they were sad to go. Well, they would miss the kids and the kids would wish they were still at our house but it was time for things to get back to normal. The first morning after they had left, we got up and it was time for me to make the oatmeal. Jerry watched as I took the red and blue box from the shelf and I could see that he wanted to say something, but was hesitating. When the water had boiled and it was time to put the oatmeal in the saucepan, Jerry cleared his throat and after much hemming and hawing finally said, "Mom, do you think you could ask Pop Pop how he makes the oatmeal? It's really good the way he makes it." I was surprised and said, "Sure, Jerry, I'll ask Pop Pop but what is so special about the way he makes it?" The poor kid didn't want to hurt my feelings but he really wanted me to know about my Dad's oatmeal, so he very quietly said, "His oatmeal has these great big lumps in it and they really taste GOOD! Do you think you could try to make it with big lumps in it, too?" From that day on, just like 007's martini, the oatmeal was shaken not stirred.[rc] © 2009 Ronni Bennett