By Raquel W. ’21
When roaming the aisles of any supermarket, there is only one man you should be searching for. He has long white hair and goes by the name of William Penn. When you find him, he should be smiling on top of the most exciting cylinder of cardboard one has ever encountered: a container of Quaker Oats.
As a young child, I remember sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for my dad to make my breakfast. The microwave would beep, and moments later, a soggy, sad bowl of hot brown and beige cereal sat in front of me on the table. Sometimes there would be far too much water sitting on top of the oats and at other times, the oatmeal was too sticky to even spoon into my mouth. It was then that I realized that nailing the perfect combination of 1) the ratio of oats to water or milk, and 2) the correct number of seconds to microwave your oatmeal is an art form. When it comes to oatmeal, texture is of the utmost importance.
But then, I discovered Quaker’s Maple and Brown Sugar, Apples & Cinnamon, and Cinnamon & Spice flavors, which were just sweet enough to attract my 7-year-old self. I had decided that this was the best kind of oatmeal until one weekend at my aunt and uncle’s house when I was introduced to Quaker’s Dinosaur Eggs Oatmeal. I was in heaven. It was candy for breakfast and everything a kid could want in a meal: sugar, sugar, and sugar. To my mother’s dismay, this sugary concoction was my new favorite food!
It was around the time that I was in 7th grade, that my family began to eat plant-based. And with this shift towards a healthier diet, went my beloved sweet Quaker oatmeal packets. But luckily, my mother still allowed plain oats in the house and it was time to get creative. My first experiment was the classic combination of banana and peanut butter in oatmeal, but it took a bit of experimentation to find the perfect amount of water, oats, and microwave time. I continued to explore different combinations of toppings, by using berries instead of banana or adding Ceylon cinnamon, agave nectar, or hemp seeds.
After realizing that the number of combinations I could create was limitless, I felt powerful. I am not a chef, but I could make a healthy, satisfying bowl of oatmeal. I had recipes up my sleeve that covered the major food groups and supplied my body with plenty of nutrients and vitamins. According to an article published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “Oats contain several components that have been proposed to exert health benefits” and whole oats have “antioxidants to reduce the damaging effects of chronic inflammation that is associated with various diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.” My breakfast was no longer a sad bowl of plain mushy oats, but a versatile, nutritious, beautiful treat. It is the simplistic nature that I love. It doesn’t take a mastermind to microwave a bowl of Quaker: Quick 1-minute Oats. Oatmeal allowed me to recognize the affordability and approachable nature of plant-based eating.
These days, I have oatmeal for breakfast every morning. Though my mother teases me for being such a creature of habit, that daily bowl of oats provides me with a feeling of groundedness and routine. Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, it brings me a sense of normalcy and security. I go to bed each night looking forward to the concoction I’ll create the next morning. It sets such a positive tone for the day ahead by being a creative, healthy, and bright creation. It is also the flexibility of oatmeal: sweet or savory, its endless number of toppings, its variety in texture, etc., that makes it so marvelous. I know that I am starting my day with something that is nutritious for both my body and mind. A classmate of mine, Arianna Smith, agrees and says, “To me, oatmeal is the perfect breakfast. You can experiment with flavors and toppings to make a bowl suitable for anyone’s taste, with barely any effort required. Starting the day off with something healthy and homemade makes me feel good mentally and physically, and oats keep me satisfied for hours.”
The bowl is a daily reminder that you can find a love for things you disliked in the past by making them your own and giving them a chance. For me, oatmeal was my gateway to plant-based eating and being a touch more self-sufficient by making my own food. You can take small steps, be in the moment and appreciate where you are in a long journey ahead in achieving your goals whether they be eating healthier, acquiring more kitchen skills, or anything else.
|My Sweet Oatmeal Toppings Rankings Note: I have determined that the best oats to water ratio is ½ cup oats to just over a cup of water. Quaker recommends ½ cup of oats with a cup of water but I recommend just adding a little more water because when you add toppings (which are crucial) they will thicken the mixture and after, leave you with the perfect texture.|
1. Raspberries+Orgain’s “Creamy Chocolate Fudge Flavor” (vegan)
a. No, the protein powder is not the most natural or nutritious topping but how could you resist a chocolatey explosion of flavor to start your morning?
b. Raspberries are best if you smash them up into your oatmeal because they spread throughout the oatmeal as their seed bits break off.
2. Sliced banana+PB+Ceylon cinnamon
a. Ceylon cinnamon is not as strong as regular cinnamon so feel free to top off your oatmeal with a generous amount.
3. Blueberries+PB+Ceylon cinnamon
4. Frozen mixed berries+choc protein powder
a. Frozen berries melt and mix into the hot oatmeal better than fresh berries. Therefore, use frozen berries if you want a stronger berry flavor. My favorite mixture is a combination of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries. I recommend staying away from frozen strawberries because since they are much larger than the other berries, they take a while to melt.
5. Frozen mixed berries+peanut butter+Ceylon cinnamon