In my enthusiasm to detail the ways our Benjamin has changed how we eat, I neglected to mention that he has had a profound effect on what we eat as well.
Experiencing food through a miniature set of taste buds has even further ignited my desire to try new flavours; offering variation on the plate as well as the palate. I am much more aware of the colours of food, the textures and the interplay of tastes. I am happy to play Navigator to Benjamin’s Explorer of the culinary world.
Surprisingly enough, these travels have lead me back to well-trodden trails of an old favourite. And so I must sheepishly admit, I now eat the same breakfast almost every day.
It is true; while my son and dear husband will be offered a virtual smorgasbord of options, I will contentedly cuddle up with a cup of coffee and my most humble bowl of breakfast. And what is in that bowl? Oatmeal.
Up until recently I do not think I had made oatmeal, as oatmeal, in years. My last remembrance would be my eight-year-old self and those packets of instant oats that promised to make “a hot cereal lover out of me.” Since then, while I almost always have had oatmeal in the house, it was usually relegated to my baking cupboard - destined for crisps, crumbles, cookies and crunchy granola.
Let me explain how I came back to this taste of childhood. It all started over the winter, as Ben was further expanding his food boundaries. While he was all too happy to nibble and munch a myriad of tastes through the day, his little belly seemed happiest with a comforting brekkie of oatmeal each morning.
As many parents will surely know, beyond being food provider, we are also the designated cleanup crew. So when there was any cereal left over, it became Mummy’s breakfast too. Warming and filling on those cold mornings, I started making enough for us to share. Benjamin happily watching from his chair while I stirred the bubbling pot on the stove, baby babbling about his dreams from the night before and his plans for the day ahead.
Mummyhood has brought about a greater interest in my own health, as I want to make sure that I can keep up with an ever mischievous little man. I have found my bowl of oats, along with long term heart-health benefits, gives me more than enough energy to make it through my daily toddler wrangling.
But lest you think I am boring, I do offer a pantry cupboard full of garnishes. Dried cranberries and blueberries add mouth-puckering tartness; Demerara sugar brings textural sweetness; cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom offer heady aromas and depth of flavour.
Simple and satisfying, yet offering a complex world of possibilities. What a happy discovery.
Oatmeal with sultanas and spice
The warmth of spices comes up in a scented cloud as they cook; a moment of aromatherapy before a busy morning. Paired with the throaty sweetness of plump sultanas and honey, this is a favourite combination of golden goodness. With an eye on nutrition, I have also included a sprinkling of bud-style bran cereal.
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup milk
1 heaped tablespoon sultanas
1/8 teaspoon (a good pinch) cinnamon
2 green cardamom pods
1/3 cup whole-grain oats
1/8 cup bud-style bran cereal
Honey, to taste
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water, milk, sultanas and spices to just under a boil. Add the salt. Stirring, sprinkle in the oats and cereal.
Reduce the heat to low. Cook, according to the package instructions.
Remove cardamom pods if desired. Spoon oatmeal into serving bowl, drizzle with honey to taste. Serve immediately.
• If you prefer a more pronounced cardamom flavour, slightly bruise the pods with the heel of your palm to release their black seeds. Add these, along with the husks, to the water and milk as directed. If you, like me, read the paper while eating breakfast, keep an eye out for the seeds when eating.
• For a creamier version, increase the amount of milk and adjust the water accordingly.
• Slivered pistachios with figs (dry or fresh) is also a frequent favourite.