Ode to Oatmeal

This morning, while running late, I threw water and Quaker quick-cooking oatmeal into a pan, put it on high to force it to cook faster, and tossed in some frozen blueberries. Then I put the scorched pan in the sink to soak for the day while I rushed off to work. Driving down the highway in the snow, I thought of past oatmeal.

As some of you know we lived off grid for several years. We left behind a lowland countryside of small farms where, as kids, we’d build forts with the neighbor’s hay bales. In other words, we weren’t prepared.

Initially my parents lived in a minuscule cabin and I had a homemade, equally minuscule, 5th wheel trailer. With no heat. The first winter I priced propane heaters and made the, by now infamous, statement ‘I’m not paying two hundred dollars for something I’m going to use one or two months out of the year!’.


Mishma was not amused by winters

Some of you already know what happened. I spent a winter going to bed wearing wool leggings that went from ankle to crotch, socks covered by wool socks, a shirt, a flannel nightgown, a robe, a big stack of blankets, and a dog and cat under the blankets. I’d wake to blankets frozen to the wall and my breath frozen on those blankets.


Blurry photo of Vaila, who slept under the blankets.

It was not enjoyable. And obviously, I eventually spent two hundred dollars. The heater kept the cat’s bowl from freezing but that was about it.

But anyway, one thing that is still a warm memory from that time period is oatmeal.

My father would get up early and mix steel-cut oats with heavy cream. He’d start a fire in the wood stove and put the pot on the back, where it would slowly simmer for hours.

By the time I came in frozen, the cabin would be warm and the oatmeal hot, thick, and creamy. I’d stand in front of the fire, turning in circles to thaw out each side, and eat breakfast to thaw out from the inside.

I think of that now, and not just because of the difference between his oatmeal and mine. It was a rough way to live in many ways. There were a lot of hardships both emotionally and physically. But as with anything else in life, there were also many good things.


And one of those was a father who would get up on those cold, dark, winter mornings and start a fire.


2 thoughts on “Ode to Oatmeal

  1. I’ve had this experience in reverse. I live in Barcelona where summers are hot and everyone has aircon, except me. I just thought it was so excessive, but now I have given in and am finally installing it. I don’t regret my years of defiance either, though!
    By the way, you had a very loyal cat. Most would have moved in with a neighbour who had central heating.


    • He was loyal, but not happy! Now that I live with light that comes from a switch and not a flame, I find I miss the defiance. When it comes to heat though, I think I would have been sucked into getting air conditioning much faster than you did! As my doctor once told me – I’m genetically pre-disposed to live next to a glacier.


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