Two Quaker Oats boxes sit side by side, both cylindrical, cardboard boxes. One (on the left) is labeled “Quick” Oats and the other “Steel Cut.” One takes one minute to cook, the other 25-30 minutes. Both varieties have similar taste and texture, but they are not exactly alike in nutritional value or price.
Writers, like you and me, like to think outside the BOX.
And, writers, like us, probably find topics everywhere: in the grocery store, on a nature walk, at a party. Ideas may come to us as we drive our cars, in the shower, reading, or in conversation with friends, these days by phone or through Skype or ZOOM.
What the Quaker Oats boxes told me . . .
- Flash fiction (or a personal essay) usually takes much less time to write than a 350-page novel or memoir. Both, of course, can be satisfying.
- Don’t be surprised if the “quick oats” project turns into the “steel-cut” version. It all depends: Did you find a diary in the attic since the first draft? Did the “new” thought make more sense than the original? Did the assignment change?
- The logo on the “box” might ignite your curiosity. Then a side-road leads to something else (maybe something better) to write about.
Add to the tips here, or explore a side-road from your own experience!
How do you serve oatmeal?
What comfort food do you enjoy cooking (or eating) during these days of isolation?
We have been eating steel-cut oats at least once a week for about a decade. Our friend Phyllis served us this version when we were house guests in Indiana. Stuart tried to get the grandkids to eat our favorite oatmeal by calling it “gummy bears.” They were not fooled. 🙂
As you may recall, you provided breakfast for me when I visited Harrisonburg in 2013 for my EMU class reunion. It was a busy time: BLUSH had just come out, and I was busy catching up with classmates. One thing stands out: Steel-cut oats flavored with Wilbur chocolate buds. There may have been other flavorings, like fruit, but the chocolate buds were memorable. These days, I have a few bits of chocolate – after breakfast.
You are first responder today. Thank you, Shirley!
Oh gosh, I immediately had a vision of my Mamaw, wearing her duster, saying “I have to go put my oats on.” My maternal grandmother always started her day with the 1 minute oatmeal. Thanks for the memories!
Jill, I’m happy this post sparked a pleasant memory – that’s my goal. I wonder if you wear dusters (aka a robe) as you work from home these days – ha!
I wasn’t sure if anyone would know what a duster was…I should have known you would. 🙂 No, I’m like my mother. I get dressed as soon as I’m up. Even in her moderate stage of Alzheimer’s she gets up and dresses herself in very coordinated outfits…bless her. <3
In home economics class, we girls made dusters. I remember mine had a lacy fringe.
It’s heartening to hear that your mother still gets up and gets dressed, a good sign. About two weeks ago, our mayor told people. “Get up out of bed, get dressed – you’ll feel better!” I thought then, and I still did that it’s good advice. Thanks for the follow-up, friend!
Your duster sounds quite fancy! 🙂 Good advice from your mayor.
Good morning, Marian. I eat the old-fashioned rolled oats, which I guess is in-between the quick and the steel cut. I like the texture better. In the summer, I have blueberries in it, the rest of the year, I have raisins.
Thanks for responding here. I know you’ve had some challenging days lately, but still you show up here, so appreciated. We all struggle to connect with things that feel sort of “normal” in these topsy-turvy days.
Here’s hoping for fresh blueberries for your oatmeal, maybe in June! :=)
Like Merril, we have the in between, rolled oats (organic). I’ve been eating them every morning for well over 25 years. Oh my! With one exception: I serve the steel cut to our AirBnB guests (when we have them; alas). Slow cooker, overnight (6-10 hours). I add lots of good things and, especially when the g’kids visit, offer maple syrup to pour on top. Who says oatmeal has to be healthy too? You asked a really good question about oatmeal and writing which I now forget. Got so caught up in explaining the role of oatmeal in my life. And now I’m hungry. Ta ta. Off to make me some. Thanks for a lovely start to yet another confined day.
Vermonters can enjoy fresh maple syrup with their oatmeal, so envious. As to your comment, I don’t think we have to worry too much about being “healthy” about the additives since we likely burn off the sugar after breakfast.
Your AirBnB hosting is exceptional, Janet. Some of our experiences (despite claims) have not measured up; some have though, like the hostess that offered fresh eggs to cook from her free-range chickens. I don’t think anyone has served us oatmeal slow-cooked for 6-10 hours though.
I eat oatmeal every morning. I usually make the quick oats but have made steel-cut oats as well. What a great analogy. Taking the time to make the steel-cut oats, like taking time to write a novel can be rewarding. But making the quick oats is still better than sugary cereals, and like writing a quick blog post, is still rewarding and good for you. Similar to taking a quick walk around the block or a two hour hike. Funny how this extra time on our hands gets us thinking.
I like your comparisons, Darlene, and mentioning that we have the time to savor ideas during this extended isolation. I heard someone call it a “recess” from the fast-paced life we have imposed on ourselves before the virus hit.
You write blog posts (short form) and books too, more laborious. I find satisfaction in both since they connect us to readers. Right?
Exactly and it gets you to exercise your writing muscles!!
Lovely. I’m going to decorate my breakfast grits like your oatmeal design…….
Gee, I’m pumped, Jack. Will you share a photo sometime? I’d like to see your version of “happy” oatmeal. 🙂
Hi Marian, I love your metaphor about writing.No such thing as an”instant” memoir. Oatmeal has been a breakfast staple for years. I add nuts, raisins, sometimes peanut butter or plain. I usually go with the old fashioned oats , occasionally steel cut. It all feels so healthy!
Kathy, good morning, and thanks for joining in here. Right – no instant memoir. =)
I’m happy to hear you are get healthier and stronger every day. So proud of you!
I loved reading this Marian. Takes me back to when I was a kid & recall how I disliked oatmeal immensely! I would always choose cream of wheat and now it is the opposite. I love oatmeal because of the texture and enjoy it with just a touch of brown sugar and milk like I used to put on the cream of wheat. I also loved your comparing oatmeal to writing and thinking outside the box. I need to get out of the box in my head and learn to write. My daughter gave me a beautiful leather bound journal for Christmas and I have yet to write a page. I admire you for your ability to be motivated to write….you inspire me….I just need a BIG push…😄
Here’s the big push, Bev, from your teacherly friend! Take out that beautiful leather-bound journal you got at Christmas. Begin with 2 lines each day (include the date, writing what you are thankful for.) First entry could be Rachel hosting our Pilates classes via Zoom. You’ll think of a #2.
Eventually your gratitude book could turn into something more, or just remain “as is”! You have it in you. No doubt in my mind! 🙂
Here’s to loving oatmeal!
Thank you my sweet “teacherly” friend. Your suggestions sound doable. I’ll give it a try. See you on Zoom and hopefully in person soon. 🧘🏻♀️
It can’t come SOON enough. ZOOM will work for now!
Good morning Marian, On this mid-April day here in Illinois, I opened my curtains to a see several fat robins playing in the fresh-falling snow. The sky is cloudy. There is no hint of sunshine outside. I want to hear gorgeous melodies from my Dino playlist, or John Barry’s compositions, TV is a definite NO-NO with non-stop calamity going in the world. My sense of taste and smell is only satisfied by warm and wonderfully comforting baked oatmeal. It will surely fortify and nourish me inwardly to tackle today’s realities.
Snow would only add to the quietness in your world, except for playful robins, courting spring.
I admire how you take care of yourself by setting boundaries on news and filtering out other noise. Dino and John Barry sound like delightful choices. It’s always good to see you here, Carol. Thanks for commenting!
I like my oatmeal unsweetened — straightforward and to the point. And I like to read writing that is like that too. Sometimes the people who write the straightforward and to the point stories take a long time to craft that work, and sometimes they might jot something off more quickly. The speed of it isn’t as important to me as the flavour of it.
My favorite line in your “writerly” response: The speed of it isn’t as important to me as the flavour of it. That’s so true. And, I agree, short or longer pieces take time to craft. Thanks, Arlene!
Marian, you have such a creative mind! Love this!
Growing up we ate oatmeal on cold winter days (like today; believe it or not we have snow on the ground). We didn’t have the steel cut variety. Mom served it with milk and sugar. Sooooo good. And sooo comforting. I’m reminded of days when we’d go off exploring in the snow like the kids in Narnia. So I think of fantasy worlds like Narnia.
My comfort food of choice these days is peppermint tea. I have that every night. I also like a Reese’s peanut butter cup. 😀 😁
I’ve never been a fan of oatmeal. I eat it because it’s good for me. And I disguise the flavour with brown sugar, raisins and fruit. My comfort food is rice or bread pudding.
Nothing wrong with “disguising” the flavor with sugar and fruit. 🙂
Checking out your website, I notice that you also savor nostalgia, tea and the Canadian prairie. Welcome, Irene, and thank you for the comment today.
Linda Marie, peppermint tea, like your posts, offer comfort. I don’t have tea everyday, but I do like chocolate, an energy picker-upper.
Another commenter from Illinois mentioned snow on the ground. So, I’m not surprised that you have it too in your area of the state. I’m glad you found this post comforting as I do yours with those fuzzy memes. Thanks- again!
I love how you think outside the box. It’s inspiring! I’m sure you can guess my comfort food. Tea!!
Honestly, most days I know I will be served tea on your posts. Your writing inspires and doesn’t deplete me of energy, which is in short supply these days.
Thanks for motivating me to self-care during these stressful days, Jenn. A cuppa tea will do it!
Very artistic, Marian! I use oats to make flapjacks for Peter’s long cycle rides!
No one but you could claim your use of oats for flapjacks – at least no other commenters has mentioned firing up energy for a loved one. You take good care of Peter. Thanks, Fatima!
I have both, the rolled oats and the steel cut. A tip about oats is to soak the oats overnight, cover and leave it until ready. I dress my oats up big time. I blend whatever fruit I have when I’m ready to have my breakfast (at any time of the day – usually before 1.00), give the oats a quick microwave, pile the blended fruit ion it, and add a huge dollop of double cream plain yoghurt. It’s like a dessert .. the steel cut oats obviously cannot get this quick treatment, but I also soak it overnight. Oh, and very important, I make my own muesli – those oats go into a bowl, add a cup or so of oatbran, throw in nuts (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, chopped up almond, even chia seed and whatever else), mix up with honey and oil, bake in oven. Turn it over every now and then. This is heaven in a bowl. Same re fruit and yoghurt. Real comfort food 🙂
Thanks Marian, this is delicious to read 🙂
Your “oat” notes are detailed enough for a recipe page. I’m taking notes, Susan. 🙂
I’m glad you found this post delicious to read. Thanks for your culinary suggestions.
Marian, it takes a skillful and inspiring writer to entice so many people to share this much information about oatmeal, of all things! 😉 Fun read, interesting post.
To your question about comfort food: Thank heavens we are not eating during this crisis the meals we grew up on in southcentral Pennsylvania, huh? — fried food, potatoes with every meal … gravy bread! But boy, were they good! Last night I made meatloaf and mashed potatoes, closest I’ve come in a long time to my childhood cuisine!
About the writing: You are spot on. Ideas are everywhere. And it’s SO easy to veer off on that side-road. Love your blog!
The meatloaf and mashed potato menu was okay for the farm life. In the olden days, everybody in the family burned off energy, big time. However, during this weird time of sheltering in place, it’s easy to pack on the pounds if we don’t exercise.
Thanks for your contribution to the post today, Lorrie. Your memorabilia look like awesome collectibles!
We had old-fashioned oats for breakfast this morning. While I understand that it is healthy, I also just happened to like oatmeal. Probably a gift from my Scottish heritage. Of course, a splash of maple syrup might be part of the reason, too.
So, you are Scottish, another “little know fact about Ally Bean”! I associate healthy and hardy with your name, thrifty too. Here’s to a wee splash of maple syrup.
We grew up eating oatmeal ceeam of wheat and cornmeal for breakfast with our grandmother. She would put vanilla cinnamon evaporated milk and but with brown sugar. We loved it. I serve it the same way to my children and grandchildren. Even as adults my nephews and nieces will call and ask if I could make them the oatmeal of their choice. I’m the only one who still makes it. I love it. Very nice topic I’m making some for dinner.
As a professional cook, you know that taste is everything. Nutrition is important too. Your family will enjoy your version of oatmeal tonight, I’m sure. Glad to “see” you here, Gloria. I hope you are all safe, sheltering in place. 🙂
I make a big batch of granola about every three weeks. It has oatmeal, honey, oil, ground flax, sunflower seeds, nuts, coconut and sesame seeds in it. I bake it in a 225 degree oven for two hours, and when I eat it I add milk and fresh blueberries, raspberries or whatever fruit is in season or in my freezer. I have it every morning for breakfast and never get tired of it! The recipe was kindly given to me by a bed and breakfast host who made it every day.
You are so creative! I love the bowl with the happy fruity face, and I like your comparison of quick oats to shorter pieces of writing and steel cut to longer, although it seems to me both types of writing are of equal value, just different, whereas steel cut oats probably has more nutritional value than quick oats.
I seem to be the kind of writer whose style is more short pieces like poetry, essays, letters. I can’t seem to get myself to commit to longer works, not sure why! Time commitment maybe?
When I think of your writing, I think of a treasure trove of family history honoring a family who loves their mother and “Nana”! I agree, both types of writing (short or long) are of equal value, just different.
The next time I feel motivated, like when we have overnight guests, I will try to use your recipe for granola. It sounds both yummy and delicious. Thanks, Elfrieda.
Marian — We’re a steel-cut oats family, all the way. One of my favorite comfort foods is mashed sweet potatoes with a touch of butter and brown sugar. I can eat bowls (and bowls!) of it.
My father was a huge fan of planting sweet potatoes because of the nutrition. He planted them along with field corn in the village of Rheems.
When I read George Washington Carver’s The Peanut Man, I recall a chapter just on the value of sweet potatoes. I’m sold too!. Thanks, Laurie.
Packages of “Quick Oats” came in handy during our recent 5-day power outage here in Maine. We keep these packets on hand for emergencies. Ready in minutes with boiling water from the wood stove–very comforting! I Planning to get out the bread-maker and bake a loaf of oatmeal bread this week. I also make an oatmeal crumble topping for apple and berry pies (using frozen fruit from our trees).We love oatmeal!
I get the impression that cooking & baking complement your writing life very well. How resourceful you are to provide during emergencies, one challenge on top of the other these days. Thanks, Bette!
This was a clever and entertaining read and words to ponder Marian. Sorry though my brain is much right now, but I enjoyed the read. 🙂 x
Our brains get weary flexing between the writing life, flashes of fear in the news, and what’s going on in our households. One day this will be behind us – we’ll be wiser and less stressed.
Thanks for reading and posting here in spite of all you’re going through, Debby. Power naps help me – deep breaths too! Wishing you health and safety today, my friend! Virtual hugs:
Yes! Deep breathing does help for those anxiety moments that do visit. One day this will pass and the floodgates of creativity will return to many writers with sooooooooooooooo much to write about again. Thank you and please stay safe, quarantined and don’t go out without gloved and mask. Hugs back 🙂 ((()))
Tomorrow our daughter said she would deliver some new (and better) masks to replace our old ones… can’t be too careful!
Oh, that’s fantastic Marian. If you’re handy at sewing (which I believe you are?) you can make your own washable. I’m not a sewer, other than a button, so I ordered some from Amazon 3 weeks ago. I think they’re on a slow boat from China, lol, should have them by May lol. But I do have a stash here still of disposables from hub and his few hospital visits through the years, I always nabbed a few on visits. In those not so long ago days, they were there for the taking. You never know when something will come in handy. 🙂 Stay safe! 🙂 x
I love oatmeal, but I can’t stand the one-minute variety. I use Quakers slow-cook, but find that I can microwave it in much less time than on the stovetop. Viola! And yes, I love putting 1 tsp of brown sugar on top and lots of raspberries or blueberries and just a quick dash of low-fat milk. A great breakfast. We need it now since we had snow flurries yesterday, and snow expected tomorrow.
I love your comparison of oatmeal (quick or slow-cooking) to writing. I love writing flash fiction – or flash non-fiction – (for my writing classes and my blog). I think it helps me with my longer novel-writing, which may take me a while to get to, but writing flash helps me feel like I’m always practicing my writing skills.
Pam, you are fantastic at flash fiction which I enjoy on your blog regularly. And of course, your novel-writing.
I agree with you assessment of quick oats. I’m guessing there are additives I wouldn’t like, shortcuts that subtract from good nutrition, if that makes sense. Oatmeal is not particularly tasty to me, but I like the berries: rasp- black- and straw- that go with it.
You get the prize for following the analogy beautifully here. I like your examples, many I can identify with. Incidentally, My friend from Indiana just sent a snowy video via Facebook – snow on the trees, porch and backyard. Here voice, said “It’s pretty” . . . but I could tell she’s tired of snow.
Whatever the weather, stay safe, Pamela and family! 🙂
We call oatmeal, porridge or Scott’s porridge oats here in the U.K.. I tend to have it in the wintertime with maple syrup and blueberries an extra ring of milk ….just a little not too much.
I tend to be a boiled egg and soldiers girl , on the whole .
Now, it was either you or Laurie I had the soldiers conversation with . If you are not sure what they are , they are bread and best butter fingers , easy to dunk .
I’m so embarrassed at missing replying to one of my best friends online, certainly my BEST Welsh friend. The word “porridge” reminds me of childhood stories: The 3 Bears and their small, medium, and large bowls!
Thanks for enlightening me about “soldiers girl.” I remember dunking buttered toast before school when I was a kid. One of my grandsons is a “dunker.” He probably still is.
Perfection eludes me. I don’t know what to say except “I’m sorry, so sorry, please accept my apology!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kh0Ky6vGoeM by Brenda Lee
I’m so behind. I do enjoy cooked oatmeal, whether steel cut or whatever, and usually add chopped apples, nuts, raisins and brown sugar plus milk. I also enjoy the oats made into granola. I’m sure you know my cereal-of-the-day now as Kashi from the series of columns I ran earlier this year.
Like you, sometimes I feel behind too, which is unsettling, because I have all this TIME. I know PT for hubby is taking a chunk of your time, but some day it will be behind you, and you’ll feel relief, maybe even triumph. In the past weeks, we’ve met with a roofer to get our roof replaced, and today a plumber is here replacing 2 toilets. All good, but disruptive.
Yes, Melodie, I never forget you are a cookbook author and have so many “tools” for connecting these days–writing, cooking, and baking. I enjoyed your post about Stone today–he’s on his way!
Great and fun prompt, Marian. I’m surprised you have two kinds of oats. But, then again, you live in a house. 🙂
We always buy “traditional oats” but not from Quaker. We buy a generic brand. Mark uses the oats to make his own granola (oats, honey, salt, cinnamon, mixed deluxe nuts, sunflower seeds, and raisins) and once in a while, we have oatmeal for breakfast. I’m not a fan, but it does taste OK with banana and maple syrup.
Now that we’re settled again, I hope to work on several writing projects, as inspiration strikes. Since we have no idea when the end of our stay here is in sight, I feel less stress and guilt to get cranking, which is nice.
Hey, Liesbet, one of the “Oats” photos was taken in a store. The photo of the steel-cut oats, which we actually eat, was taken at a different range in our house, so Cliff manipulated the two so they would “match” on the blog, another advantage of having a graphic artist in the house – ha!
I’m glad you feel less stress and guilt during this extraordinary time. You need a “recess” from stress; we all do. I suppose, every cloud (make that CLOUD!!) has a silver lining. 😀
This is clever, Marian! As for comfort foods, top choice is soup. I love making homemade soup and throwing in whatever works from the fridge. Hope you are doing well. 🙂
In a piece I just finished (if anything is ever finished), I started with a prompt about shape which led to the shape I’m in psychologically. That led to a dull list of where I’ve already been but then a friend shared a seemingly unrelated poem. Oh, this!
I tossed out my dull list except a few lines and wrote about the idea in the poem. I often don’t know where I’m going these days, but I’m persistent and keep trying and playing until something emerges. Deciding to begin is the most important part for me, because I’m compelled to keep going until something strikes me as right and true.
Comfort food? I could name many, but not steel cut oats which are in my cabinet and make a hearty breakfast. I love good bread, but decided not to bake again because it would be tempting to eat the whole loaf. Maybe homemade soup (I have some in my refrigerator now), but my favorite is bittersweet chocolate with almonds–although if I eat too much, it becomes discomfort food.
Don’t you love when a spark of fire hits the dull, flat stuff we were working with. What would we don’t without friends sharing . . . poetry & friendship. I aim for right and true too, a noble goal always.
You comment about abstaining from break ignited the thought of Grandma L. referring to her stomach as a bread basket. She’d pat her tummy and laugh.
I’ve taken to eating a few bites of chocolate after breakfast. I guess it’s comfort food to help me feel less discombobulated these days. Your homemade soup sounds wonderful – filling and healthy. Until then, safety and warmth to you – both body and soul, Elaine. 😀