Breakfast this morning with fresh pineapple from Hawaii
My recipe for oatmeal comes with a story. When my parents arrived in Canada as refugees in 1949, they ate a lot of oatmeal, sometimes three times a day when there was nothing else. They had to repay their travel costs and there was no government support, so what money my father earned went to paying back the loan and supporting my mother and the children.
The memory of scarcity is imprinted deeply, although my mother said she could finally relax by the time my brother John and I were born. My father’s business was thriving, but my mother was thrifty and a savvy money manager. She prepared food from scratch, we reused clothes that were still wearable and seemed fashionable enough, and we didn’t waste a thing.
When I attended Eric Hamber Secondary School in Vancouver in the 1970s, I made my own breakfasts and lunches. Each Saturday, my mother baked delicious white buns that we would use for our lunches. I usually had two, but when I was desperately trying to gain weight, I would eat three, filled with cheese, deli meats, Kraft peanut butter, or fresh tomato slices and iceberg lettuce. A friend remembers me eating cucumber sandwiches. I may not have been aware of the need to have protein with every meal. I was also likely lactose intolerant and ate more than my body could use.
There was a period when the school was overfull. To handle the overflow, my Biology class began an hour before the rest of the school started. Later I had a free hour that rotated with the other classes. I could go to the library, sit by my locker, or go home early when the free block was at the end of the day. A few times I walked across the street with friends who were cutting classes, to the ponds at what later became the VanDusen Botanical Garden.
Breakfast was usually oatmeal. It was comforting to have a warm meal on a cold morning. When I had the early morning class, I would be the first to rise and the house would be frigid. CJOR on the radio kept me company. I could still hear Glen Campbell singing, “I’m a rhinestone cowboy,” Anne Murray’s “You needed me,” or Terry Jacks’ “Seasons in the Sun” on my solitary walk in the quiet neighbourhood streets while the world was waking up.
I continue my peaceful morning tradition of breakfasting with oatmeal, although without a radio, the only sounds are my cat meowing and licking his food and the quiet sounds of food preparation. I’ve made some changes to my recipe. Instead of Quaker oats, I buy a massive bag of organic oatmeal. A few years ago, I read that oats are a grain like rice, and don’t require stirring. So like rice, I let it sit for five minutes after it’s done. I add seeds for protein content. If the seeds have hard hulls that could be a digestive irritant, like chia and flax seeds, I buy them ground or grind them myself in a coffee grinder. Here’s my recipe:
Tasty Oatmeal with fruit (serves one)
from ½ to 1 tsp (2.5 to 5 ml) butter or coconut oil
about ¼ tsp (1 ml) orange zest
½ tsp (2.5 ml) ground cinnamon
slightly heaping ½ cup (125 ml) quick organic rolled oats
10 oz. (300 ml) filtered water
¼ cup (60 ml) chopped fruit
1 tbsp (15 ml) hemp hearts
1 tsp (5 ml) ground flax seed
1 tsp (5 ml) ground chia seeds
1 tsp (5 ml) cocoa (optional)
sprinkle of salt
For adding when cooked:
⅓ cup unsweetened nut milk
milk sweetener: dash of maple syrup or honey, or 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of jam
½ tsp (2.5 ml) fresh lemon juice
I always have organic oranges around for their delicious zest. Warm the freshly scraped orange zest and cinnamon in the fat as it's melting. Add water and remaining ingredients. Bring everything to a gentle boil, then simmer for four minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered for five minutes. Add ⅓ cup nut milk and stir. If the milk is unsweetened, add a dash of maple syrup, honey, or a spoonful of jam. If I have extra lemon juice from slicing apples ahead of time (to prevent browning), adding a bit at the end gives even more flavour.
Any fresh fruit can work, but a delicious combination is two medjool dates with about a dozen fresh cranberries or blackberries. The tart and sweet flavours are magnificent with the orange and cinnamon flavouring. I've also used apples, pineapples, cranberries, blackberries, raisins... As mango is tender, I prefer to add it on top rather than cooking with it. For fresh pineapple, wait till it's ripe before cutting it up completely. Dry fruit like raisins develop a luscious, juicy consistency if first reconstituted by soaking in filtered water for a few hours or overnight. Cooked apples with cinnamon give the kitchen the wonderful scent of apple pie.
- Irene Plett
Topics: Food, recipes, oatmeal, history, refugees, family, Eric Hamber Secondary School, Vancouver, Glen Campbell, Anne Murray, Terry Jacks, CJOR, thrift, scarcity, inexpensive meals, vegan food