Blessed are those whose boats are rocked by oats. 

When did oats take over our lives as the bitter pill adults must swallow to get better? Most breakfast places serve oatmeal, but they are loaded with sugar and fat. I recently saw a healthy tip for eating your daily oatmeal: top it with creme fraiche! That’s like eating salad with fries. Because it’s hard for me to get excited about oats, I was impressed when Anthony Mackie, in a Harper Bazar feature, proclaimed he eats a bowl of plain oatmeal for breakfast every single day. He added that he does not add fruit because of their sugar content. But then, in a recent feature on what he eats in a day, he says he eats oats with fruit and a side of eggs—Mackie’s human, after all.  

Growing up in India, we ate savory breakfasts with a range of choices. For example, you could have idli (a steamed rice cake), dosa (a rice-based crepe), uthappam (a thicker dosa), vada (savory lentil donuts), idiyappam (rice string hoppers), poori (a puffed fried bread), alu paratha (bread stuffed with potato), upma (semolina dish like polenta), poha (puffed rice), and the Indian favorite, yes, bread omelet. Therefore, transitioning to eating semisweet or plain oats for breakfast is hard. 

Conditioning matters. An American colleague’s daughter was so traumatized by the daily savory breakfasts during her stay in an Indian ashram -where she voluntarily went for spiritual enlightenment- she turned down my invitation for a home-cooked Indian dinner. She didn’t want to get PTSD, she said. As if I would cook breakfast dishes for dinner. 

But surprisingly, oatmeal has now conquered even India, the land of savory breakfasts. During my recent visit to India, a girl of limited financial means lamented she could not afford to buy oats. Yet, her doctor recommends it. It reminded me of Nestle’s campaign to wean off poor mothers from breastmilk to purchase baby formula they couldn’t afford.      

How can you muster excitement about eating oats, the research-proven panacea for many of your ills? I agree with Deepak Chopra that whatever you eat must be appetizing. And the mind is the fussiest eater unless you can tame it like Dr. Oz. An NYT feature noted his timed, portion-controlled, joyless eating. Most of us live to eat, but what if, paradoxically, eating oats can keep us alive?

I remember my amazement watching my eighty-year-old dad eating his breakfast. Three servings of dosa (rice crepes) or whatever was on the menu for the day, a boiled egg, and a couple of plantains. He ended his breakfast by chugging a tall glass of oats and milk porridge, a meal in itself. God bless him. He lived a healthy life until his death at eighty-seven. Was it the oats or what he ate with the oats? I think it’s the latter.

For those struggling to eat oats without the luxury of adding sugar or cream, I have found the key is to pair it with something savory. It could be a couple of crackers with hummus, eggs, or a slice of avocado toast. Then, let them take center stage and watch the oatmeal becoming a sidekick, a job it does exceedingly well. It turns out the key to savoring oats is savory.            

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *