When I left home, I made some food promises to myself.
I would never again eat fast.
I would never again eat liver.
I would never again eat margarine.
I would never again eat oatmeal.
I despised tough liver, greasy butter substitute, and the gawd-awful gluey bowls of cooked cereal which my sisters ladled from a heavy pot on the stove for us on winter mornings. As for the speed of consumption, in a middle-class family with a working mother and eight children, one learned to gobble down the goods or a hungry boy would dive for your plate.
My mother knew that I didn’t like oatmeal. Her mischievous side prompted her to pack my Christmas presents in the friendly-faced Quaker oats boxes, round and inviting with green-and-red paper. She carefully adhered bright ribbon to the open seam to secure the lid and disguise its contents. My heart sank each time I tore the paper open, though just for a second as the joke became obvious. She’d giggle and snicker while I groaned, Mooooooooo-THER! A tired matriarch’s idea of practical jokes — harmless and brief but oh so delightful!
I have cooked oatmeal since then but not eaten it. Now I enter the downside of middle age. I take two heart medications and strain to keep my weight down to ease the load on my weakened legs. So this morning I bit the culinary bullet. I cooked oatmeal. I barely cooked it, leaving it “al dente” or less. I do. not. like. mush. I toasted pepitas and added a generous handful of golden raisins, with a half-cup of almond milk (unsweetened). I resisted the brown sugar.
It still tastes gawd-awful but I felt so virtuous.
As I cleaned the bowl, I thought about the reputation of oatmeal as heart-healthy. I suppose it would be too much to ask for it to also be delicious. Isn’t it just the way? You look at something and think, ewwwww. How can that be good for me? But as we know, looks can be deceiving. A bowl of awful stuff helps your heart; a tragedy builds resilience; a half-inch long pink pill stops the mutation of a virus and brightens my prospect of survival. So I’ll eat the stuff and not complain. Just keep the raisins coming.
It’s the twenty-ninth day of the thirty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.