Hippo Manchester
November 17, 2005

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Food: The joys of a simple oatmeal breakfast

Though hard to find on local menus, it’s a favorite with some chefs

By Susan Reilly  news@hippopress.com

Three-year-old Ella Grablewski loves a bowl of homemade oatmeal topped with pure maple syrup and fresh cut-up apples for breakfast.

Her father Jerome, owner of Jerome’s Catering in Londonderry, says he never acquired a taste for the stuff, but happily makes it for his daughter.

A bowl of hot oatmeal is just one of those things — people seem to either love it or hate it and few are indifferent to it. You will be hard pressed to find a restaurant in southern New Hampshire that serves oatmeal for breakfast.

Odd, because the statistics in favor of eating oatmeal are there. Oatmeal is plain and simple good for you. A single bowl of oatmeal every day can lower your cholesterol as soluble fiber pulls harmful cholesterol out of your arteries.

If that isn’t enough of an argument in favor of eating it, here is another one. Oatmeal is inexpensive and easy to prepare. Not the individual packaged kind loaded with sugar, sodium and artificial flavorings, but the plain old rolled oats that require simply a wooden spoon and a pan.

Richard Vareschi, owner of the upscale Richard’s Bistro, has eaten a bowl of oatmeal a couple times a week for the past 40 years.

“I boil water, add oats, a tad bit of salt, and slowly stir. I top it with a little brown sugar,” he explained. He skips the slice of butter because of the fat it would bring to the meal.

“I like it the old-fashioned way. I never use any instant oats,” he added.

To a novice, the variety on the supermarket shelf might seem daunting, but knowledge is power, and with oatmeal, it is all about knowing your oat.

For many people, rolled oats are the thing for weekdays and steel cut oats for the weekends.

Rolled oats are presteamed and flattened and thin and take five minutes to cook. Steel cut oats, sold in the US as Scottish or Irish oatmeal, are whole and unsteamed and manage to be both chewy and creamy at the same time. Steel cut oats take 15 minutes to cook if you soak them overnight or 30 minutes to cook straight into the water. Quick oats are presteamed, rolled and cut and take one minute to cook. While you will save on time, you lose in flavor and texture.

At the Ash Street Inn, a bed and breakfast in Manchester, owner Darlene Johnston serves oatmeal to lodgers and she herself eats it with brown and golden raisins several times a week.

Julia Child said that her favorite meal to eat at home was a breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast with marmalade and a bowl of oatmeal.

Popular and readily available brands of oatmeal include McCann’s Quick Cooking Irish Oatmeal, New Hampshire importer Old Wessex Ltd Scottish Porridge Oats and Christine and Rob’s (503-769-2993, www.christineandrobs.com).

Think of oatmeal as a blank canvas. The beauty of it is that almost any fruit, sweetener or works with it.

Plus, as the popular children’s book character Eloise says “You have to eat oatmeal or you will dry up. Anybody knows that.”