Early in the morning, before the furnace clicked on, before the alarm went off, I shivered under newly inadequate covers in the suddenly chilly house. I woke up to the first frost of the year. The predawn world outside my bedroom window was all sharp edges, like a black and white photographic negative. As I drove to work, I saw the fir trees standing out clearly in silhouette against the lighter sky, a full moon hanging just above their black tips.
One day it was fall, damp and windy. The next day it was winter, and I was searching the coat closet for gloves and scarves. I brought the extra blanket and flannel sheets out of the linen closet, and prepared to hibernate.
I’ve been hankering, these last few frosty mornings, for a big bowl of oatmeal. Perhaps I should explain that I make a definite distinction between weekday food and weekend food. Weekdays are for simple whole foods—vegetables, grains, and a little meat for lunch and dinner. Breakfast is usually a piece of whole grain toast and a scrambled egg, or sometimes Greek yogurt with granola and raisins. But on the weekends, I loosen up and go for the rich, fatty, time-consuming foods.
I don’t consider oatmeal a healthful utility breakfast, but rather a weekend luxury: protein-poor, decadent–extravagant even. Therefore, I stopped by PCC for a bag of slow-cooking whole rolled oats, some fresh brown sugar, and a carton of cream. Because I don’t screw around when it comes to oatmeal. Instant oatmeal is for lightweights–I’d just as soon not bother.
You need to have time to cook real oatmeal, to stand at the stove in slippers and bathrobe, to stir the simmering grain as it turns creamy, to taste periodically until the oats are just past al dente-soft, but still with some resistance to the tooth. Spoon fresh, soft brown sugar on top, and a handful of raisins. Sit down with a cup of hot coffee and the steaming bowl, and then, at the very last minute, trickle a small river of whole cream over the mountain of oatmeal (not milk, definitely never skim milk, but maybe half and half in a pinch, e.g. snowstorm or nuclear disaster or some such unforeseeable situation). Stir the silky cream into the oatmeal until it is shiny with sugar and fat.
This richness must be consumed slowly, perhaps with a side of bacon for protein, and the Sunday New York Times. Scrape the bowl. Lick the spoon.