Saturday, June 23, 2012

ode to oatmeal

a childhood memory:
hot oatmeal ladled into my bowl, brown sugar sprinkled on top, then a plate clamped quickly on top of the bowl.
counting, waiting, no peeking, one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand....
thirty seconds, forty-five, grasping the plate gently on either side, flipping it up so the condensation stays on it and doesn't drip into my shiny brown laced oatmeal.
raisins, one-two-three-five-eight-eleven, another, another two or three, twenty.
a dash of milk, which splashes onto the middle then quickly seeks the edge of the bowl, rushing to meet the rest which is quickly encircling my mound in the middle.
the spoon cuts in, the milk rushes, again, into the gash I've made, and the first bite approaches my mouth.
sweet, richly warm, thick, the cool of milk, the chewy decadence of a raisin.

the ritual hasn't changed for me.
I sprinkle brown sugar, I cover the bowl and wait, I grin to see the narrow ribbons of golden brown.
oatmeal isn't my favorite meal ever, but it sure does the trick before a long ride.

the soluble fiber in oatmeal is linked to helping reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol, to reducing the risk of heart disease, and to lowering blood pressure.  it's also packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and has a healthy supply of complex carbs, iron, and protein.
and it does the trick before a long ride.
it's filling without being too heavy, it's easily digested, and it provides a sustained release of energy.

and I find that long, tough rides go better if I've had oatmeal for breakfast.
so it's become my go-to meal on weekend mornings.

I tried to write a clever poem about oatmeal, but it just wasn't working.  instead, if you haven't yet had your fill of oatmeal, read on, as I share here a poem by galway kinnell, entitled oatmeal, which has given me an entirely new thing to think about as I eat my oatmeal, alone, before a ride.


I eat oatmeal for breakfast.
I make it on the hot plate and put skimmed milk on it.
I eat it alone.
I am aware it is not good to eat oatmeal alone.
Its consistency is such that is better for your mental health
if somebody eats it with you.
That is why I often think up an imaginary companion to have
breakfast with.
Possibly it is even worse to eat oatmeal with an imaginary
Nevertheless, yesterday morning, I ate my oatmeal porridge,
as he called it with John Keats.
Keats said I was absolutely right to invite him:
due to its glutinous texture, gluey lumpishness, hint of slime,
and unsual willingness to disintigrate, oatmeal should
not be eaten alone.
He said that in his opinion, however, it is perfectly OK to eat
it with an imaginary companion, and that he himself had
enjoyed memorable porridges with Edmund Spenser and John
Even if eating oatmeal with an imaginary companion is not as
wholesome as Keats claims, still, you can learn something
from it.
Yesterday morning, for instance, Keats told me about writing the
"Ode to a Nightingale."
He had a heck of a time finishing it those were his words "Oi 'ad
a 'eck of a toime," he said, more or less, speaking through
his porridge.
He wrote it quickly, on scraps of paper, which he then stuck in his
but when he got home he couldn't figure out the order of the stanzas,
and he and a friend spread the papers on a table, and they
made some sense of them, but he isn't sure to this day if
they got it right.
An entire stanza may have slipped into the lining of his jacket
through a hole in his pocket.
He still wonders about the occasional sense of drift between stanzas,
and the way here and there a line will go into the
configuration of a Moslem at prayer, then raise itself up
and peer about, and then lay \ itself down slightly off the mark,
causing the poem to move forward with a reckless, shining wobble.
He said someone told him that later in life Wordsworth heard about
the scraps of paper on the table, and tried shuffling some
stanzas of his own, but only made matters worse.
I would not have known any of this but for my reluctance to eat oatmeal
When breakfast was over, John recited "To Autumn."
He recited it slowly, with much feeling, and he articulated the words
lovingly, and his odd accent sounded sweet.
He didn't offer the story of writing "To Autumn," I doubt if there
is much of one.
But he did say the sight of a just-harvested oat field go thim started
on it, and two of the lines, "For Summer has o'er-brimmed their
clammy cells" and "Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours,"
came to him while eating oatmeal alone.
I can see him drawing a spoon through the stuff, gazing into the glimmering
furrows, muttering.
Maybe there is no sublime; only the shining of the amnion's tatters.
For supper tonight I am going to have a baked potato left over from lunch.
I am aware that a leftover baked potato is damp, slippery, and simultaneaously
gummy and crumbly, and therefore I'm going to invite Patrick Kavanagh
to join me. 
Galway Kinnell

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