First things first – my initial thought I wanted to share with all of you this Thursday was one of thrills and thanks! (Yes, I like alliteration.) Yesterday’s WIAW post meant the first day of the month was also the first day my blog received over 500 reads. It’s not why I blog, but I’m so happy that people are interested in what I have to say, and I welcome any input on what you might like to read in future. More recipes, or ramblings on life, just post in the comments below!
Now, here’s what I was thinking about yesterday when I drafted this, when a friend of mine joked that I ate more oats than anyone she knew and I should have gone to her alma mater because then I would have been a Quaker. Now, I’ve shared a lot of oat-based recipes with you, but I’m going to let everyone in on a little secret – for the first 18 years of my life, I had a major aversion to oatmeal. Crazy, right? I just had this thing about any “lumpy” foods (I loved mashed potatoes, but refused to eat them if I found even a single lump, when the fork was put down for good). Neither the color nor texture of oatmeal was visually appealing. The first time I tasted it, I was five years old and had a bowl foisted upon me by my well-meaning grandmother, who is not known for her cooking. It was lukewarm and grayish and pretty much the opposite of appetizing, and that was it. I ate oatmeal cookies, especially because even before my wheat allergy was diagnosed I had bad reactions to a lot of other baked goods, but no oatmeal.
And then I arrived in Oxford for my first year at university. The food served up in my college dining hall was mostly unappealing, as it seemed to operate on the principle of maximum calories for minimum cash – good for starving students, but not so good for a student with a sensitive stomach and lots of allergies. To make matters worse, there was a small refrigerator in the hall of my dorm, but no kitchen, and we weren’t allowed to have cooking appliances in our rooms (because of the risk of burning down a beautiful 500-year-old building, to be fair!) There was a microwave on the floor above mine but I didn’t discover it until the spring. So for the first two terms, I pretty much subsisted on yogurt, salads, cheese, fruit and veggies, and other food eaten cold, and unfortunately, more junk food (chips and crisps and chocolate) which played a role in distorting my eating habits. The saving grace of this time was my electric tea kettle – the one appliance permitted in every room in Oxford, because it was always time for tea. I could boil water, so I could make anything to which you added hot water, which meant soup, and yes, oatmeal.
At first, I dipped a toe in the water with instant oatmeal. I’ll be honest – I bought the flavored varieties or added maple syrup or jam to plain “cover up” any hint of pure oatmeal. When I was first eating oats, though, I was in an unhealthy place, and I was relying on lots of artificial sweeteners and sugar-free snacks. It was strange, because I had always been and continued to be a whole fruits lover, and so other things usually tasted TOO sweet to me. But as I began to recover, I pulled back on adding extra flavor to the flavored instant oatmeal. I stopped carting packages in my suitcase to the UK, and began sampling brands like Alara and Nairn’s that at the time only came in simple natural forms, and using just some real maple syrup or peanut butter stirred in, I found that I actually liked the taste of oatmeal. It was part of my journey to discovering the joy in real whole foods.
At some point during my second year, I mustered up the courage to use the oven in my college kitchen for the first time (after the first year, we lived in dorms with kitchens!) I had run out of instant oatmeal packets from home, actually, and with some trepidation purchased my first bag of rolled oats at Sainsbury’s. After I realized I could not, in fact, just add boiling water and get the same result as with instant, I was stumped as to what to do, because I didn’t yet have a pot to boil water on the stove (I was still using the kettle) and therefore couldn’t add in the oatmeal to the water on the stovetop like a normal person. But necessity is the mother of invention. This scenario resulted in the creation of my breakfast oatmeal cake.
I figured if I mixed up the oats with some water, and added some milk and eggs like when making other baked goods, I could bake the oatmeal in the oven. It took some trial and error to figure out the correct amount of time and temperature, and I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised when I met with success, pulled my oatmeal out of the oven, and dug into some cooked but non-scorched oats that, with the proper heat and time, had turned into a cake. I had never heard of baked oatmeal before (when I started blogging and in turn, reading other blogs, I was shocked to see the number of people with similar recipes!) but it quickly became a go-to breakfast. And snack, and sometimes lunch, or after-dinner treat…
When I made my first oatmeal cake, I was in a place where I was constantly hungry. When I discovered that cooking oats this way actually filled me up, I was ecstatic. I’m happy to say that I’m past that phase of my life now, but that I also still love my little oatmeal cakes – and that I’ve embraced the fun of baking a hundred times over by incorporating oats into my muffins, pancakes, cookies, and more! I hope you all enjoyed this little story of how the oatmeal cake came to be, and that you’ll want to try your hand at making an Apple Cinnamon, Blueberry Muffin, Pumpkin Spice, or PB&J oatmeal cake. Keep an eye out for more of my cake creations…I’ve tried at least a dozen, and I’ll keep them coming! Peaches and cream or raspberry lemon to take advantage of summer fruits, anyone?
What’s your favorite accidental food creation? Any special requests for oatmeal cake varieties?
© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.