What does it take to change a long-held breakfast habit?
I’m not exactly sure. What I do know is that my peanut butter on whole wheat toast, my go-to breakfast for — dare I say it — years, is out the window. Maybe for good.
A crack in my breakfast habit first started last summer, when I experimented with eating grain-free in my Paleo Diet Challenge. It was an admittedly lax version of a Paleo diet (yes to nightshade vegetables and dark chocolate, and absolutely yes to wine) but I succeeded in not eating any bread or grains for a whole month.
After that I went back to eating grains (and can’t tell you how happy I was to savor salty, crunchy tortilla chips again), but I wanted to remain gluten free whenever possible. For breakfast, I replaced wheat toast with gluten-free toast, off and on, but it was a struggle. The crumbly texture and bland taste of GF toast, especially compared to the fig and anise or multigrain sourdough-based loaves from Terra Breads, were too crummy to stick with.
Now I’m on to oatmeal. And it just might stick.
I used to associate oatmeal with my grandma Johnson. She had a fondness for hot cereal, and I imagined her eating it because it was hearty enough to fuel a morning of hard labor on the prairie farm where she grew up (or, in my case, a morning of pulling weeds in her garden). And oatmeal is economical. Like her generation that made it through the Great Depression, Grandma was a master at pinching pennies. Us kids could not believe she used to make her own soap, but she would proudly tell us that story again and again.
But now I see, and taste, oatmeal differently. Probably because I’m not content to keep it plain. Here’s what I do:
- Put one part old fashioned rolled oats to two parts water in a medium saucepan (1/3 cup oatmeal to 2/3 cup water is a big enough serving for me)
- Turn the burner to medium, leave the saucepan uncovered, and grind a tiny bit of salt over the oatmeal
- Add a pinch or two of ground cinnamon, cardamom or another spice
- Stir frequently for 3-4 minutes, or until it reaches your desired level of dryness
- Spoon it into a cereal bowl and toss a handful of fresh berries or fruit on top, and drizzle with maple syrup
Now you’re talking. A little jazzing up is all it took to catapult my idea of oatmeal 40 years forward and make it my own.
One happy discovery is that preparing stove top oatmeal takes only slightly longer than it does to make toast. And with gluten-free bread, I bet the time is shorter. (I was forever lowering gluten-free bread down two or three cycles in the toaster before it actually took on a brownish, toasted hue.)
The downside is that now every morning I’ve got a saucepan with a stubborn crust at the bottom to clean. But with a few hours of soaking, most of the mess is gone without me having to scrub. Not so bad, really.
So maybe, with old fashioned oatmeal, I can carve a new breakfast habit after all.