In our house, everyone likes oatmeal. And for people who know us, “our house” means many different locations these days, as Jo goes through grad school in Illinois and I come back and forth and go elsewhere for work. So the idea of “home is what you make of it” or “home is what you make in it” is especially meaningful.
Whichever place we live in, we do good oatmeal. With sautéed apples and dates, nuts, a little maple. Slow-cooked, fast-cooked, whatever. We are hot cereal aficionados. (Afficionadi?) We have it down to an art and a science. It’s a practice, the thing we do many mornings in a row, regardless of how the day before has left us feeling. It’s totally ordinary and totally celebratory – the idea that the day’s first taste should be sweet and nutritious. It pairs well with other flavors and you’re not hungry 15 minutes later.
I don’t know what 2012 was. It wasn’t ordinary. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t something I’d like to repeat. It had many, many things worth celebrating, and many, many people came to me through it that were inspiring. Many people gave us their homes when we needed them.
2012 was a lot of work, the right kind if not the easiest. It involved some mourning and some renewal, slivers of light and palpable fear. But we got up at least some days and tried to make the first taste a good one, something on the tongue that would whisper that the rest of the day had promise.
Back to oatmeal. We can make it after any kind of night before. It’s always pretty good. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it’s a little underdone or wanting. But it gets you back into your life from the dream world.
This morning, Jan 1, 2013, I was up early, so I made the oatmeal. I put a few drops of balsamic in the sautéed apples and figs; I used ghee instead of regular butter, and that gave it a bit more depth of flavor, a little more shine. I let the cereal cool just enough so my son wouldn’t burn his mouth, and I put in some sunflower butter at the end. I didn’t rush but when it was done, it was done.
While we ate, Jo said I had upped the ante, that I’d brought my a-game, to this cereal. That I’d raised the bar and set a new standard. This thing we tasted all the time had deepened our appreciation for what it could give us. This was perhaps overly flattering, but that’s how we talk to each other when we’re at our best, which I wish was more often.
My hope this morning is that, all year long, we all up the game on our oatmeal. That the daily events that make our lives creative, tasty and good for us, the ones that combine the pleasing bitter sting of coffee with the salt of a walnut, with the crunch of an apple, with the sooth of hot grain, get better with time, celebrate the ordinary and lead us somewhere more peaceful and more alive.