Wednesday, December 15, 2010


When I stayed with my friend Lin in Colorado for Thanksgiving break, I discovered a little known truth about oatmeal.

--- Nov 26,  Lin's Kitchen in Colorado ---
The sun has risen above the tallest window panes. Yet it is still early and the only sound from the rest of the house were the occasional hum of the heating vents. 

Lin is cleaning and preparing for our trip today.  Something is simmering on the stove, the kitchen filled with its gentle aroma, sweet but not overpowering.  I stop myself from checking it out and talk to Lin about the plans for the day.

A soft hiss beckons me from the direction of the aroma source, and I finally walk up to see it was a pot of oatmeal.  Picking up a spatula I stir the content, or I tried.  Lin dived and declared louder than I am accustomed from her:

"It will stick! Don't stir it!"

Well that was kind of my point really.  Puzzled, I remind myself this is not my kitchen, nor my oatmeal. I relent to lay down the spatula and walk back to our conversation.  Lin see my face and explained, in her normal voice this time:

"With oatmeal, if you stir it, it will stick to the bottom.  So just don't stir and it will be fine."

"I thought it was the other way around..."  I add a smile to soften my contradiction.

"No, it will stick if you stirred."  She nod for emphasis, proving in the face of stubborn resistance there is just no better strategy than consistent messaging.  We switch our conversation back to fun places to hit today.

--- Present Time, My Kitchen in California ---
I get up this morning with a taste for oatmeal.  I boil water in a pot and remember my conversation with Lin.  What the hack, it is just one bag of lousy oatmeal, I could afford to experiment, couldn't I?   I push away any further doubts and steel myself to watch those little flakes swim around in the heat for just seconds before sinking resolutely to the bottom.  I look for dirt on the floor or dishes to wash but everything seem miraculously clean for the first time in years.  Even the bunny is off duty from her morning patrol of making troubles, sitting contently in her condo nibbling hay.  The house is quiet except for the soft hiss of the simmering pot beckoning for me to stir, louder as time dragged on, seconds at a time.

After an eternity (5 minutes) I check on the pot. The oatmeal has melted nicely into a caramel colored goo with cream and brown colored specs.  I tentatively touch bottom with my spatula, and found nothing.  Everything is in suspension, free from the law of physics as I thought I knew, obeying instead the timeless truth of "if it ain't borken, don't fix it."

--- Back Story ---
I make a second pot later, thinking that worked nicely but surly an occasional stir won't change anything.  Suffice to say once I started, I was stirring constantly.  In the end I find myself scrubbing a horribly sticky pot pondering the irony of blessings in disguise.


  1. Ha! Love Oatmeal and the first rule is DON'T STIR. Cream of Wheat on the other hand is a stir food. . .maybe your stirring needs would be better met with Cream of Wheat! Enjoyed your post.

  2. I did not know this about oatmeal! Thanks for sharing :] PS-You have a bunny?? I loveee bunnies! Used to have one. You should post pictures sometime!!

  3. Okay....That was a new piece of information...must remember for the next time I make you said, it's quite a task to stop myself from stirring it into a sticky mess...

  4. I did not know how the stir can make it sticker.

    An experiment is the standard of checking the truth.
    It is good thing to know when one cook a oatmeal, remember" DOn't stir" it!

  5. The women in my family used to say that oatmeal needed to be made by a patient person. Same with rice, don't lift the lid until it is done!

  6. Barbara - words of wisdom. This could be a candidate for the "best advice" of the year honor.

    Christine - I am glad I wasn't the only one not in the know. Yes I am so glad you asked about her. My bunny is a big part of our lives, I wrote a story about her once here and here. There is a lot more to her though and I am sure to post more soon.

    Caterpillar - yes, I thought so. I found it hard not to keep tab on things so while waiting on the oatmeal, I pondered on this and figured there was a story in it.

    Chenglie - thanks for visiting. I am glad we all learned something. :)

    Barbara - That's exactly what I need, more patience. I will have to practice with more oatmeal.

  7. Thank you for your visit and kind words. You are right, we do seem to be alter egos on separate coasts! Christian, In Broadcast, loving language. Small world full of chance meetings and delights.

    I look forward to reading your poem that you mentioned. I can tell, from your sensitivity on this blog, that it will likely be good.

  8. Tom - thanks for returning a visit. Well I must clarify when I said "I just posted one about seasons" I didn't mean a poem. I love poetry but haven't been doing them regularly but I was told this postcame close to being a poem. I cringe a bit at calling it that still.

  9. Thank you so much for the sweet comment you left on my blog the other day. I am so happy to have you as a new blog friend! I was going to send you an e-mail but can't find you e-mail address.

    I love Oatmeal but I always just make the instant kind ;). However, this post makes me want to try making it for real.

  10. It was ancient Chinese wisdom.

  11. Ah.. I can finally post my comment! It took a few tries.

    To finish the previous comment... In southern China, when people make porridge, they usually let it be until the end. I just extended this long live wisdom to western cooking.

  12. Anonymous - So glad you can visit and make a comment (finally)! I learned to be more still and rest from this piece of wisdom and time with you... :)




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