I saw an ad on television not too long ago that conjured up an unexpected reaction. It was a somewhat emotional response to a small clip of an elderly woman pushing forth a platter of food. There was just something about her hands (of all things) that gave rise to a lump in my throat. A simple shot of this woman’s hands took me back to summer days, soap operas and a tiny table on Fisher Street.
Before we left the city of Houston for the suburbs, I would spend most of my childhood summer days at my Grandma Campbell’s home. She was an avid soap opera watcher and I highly doubt that she ever missed an episode of the Days of Our Lives, or The Young and The Restless. Obviously, as a young child I had no interest in who was slapping who that day, so rather, I would snuggle up close while she soaked up her programs and busy myself by studying her. Curiously inspecting the slope of her neck, and tracing the branching veins up and down her hands with my little fingertips. It’s funny how one short clip of an advertisement could bring back such a distinct and vivid memory, and then led to so many more.
I remembered the little kitchen in her tiny house, with a small breakfast table placed up against a wall that seated only three. I can recall sitting there and listening to the sound of shuffling dominos in the next room, along with the smell of coffee and the sounds of her great big laugh, and even cries of outrage from time to time when grandpa was winning the game. I remember watching her hands go up-and-down and back-and-forth, as she taught me how to draw stars while seated at that tiny table. I remember the types of food she most often served while I sat there. Granted, the meals were nothing spectacular as cooking was not one of Grandma Campbell’s favorite past times, but what I do distinctly remember is hot breakfast cereals, oatmeal and jelly jar glasses full of juice. But, above all things, I remember feeling happy, and very loved at that tiny table in my grandma’s house on Fisher Street.
I started to wonder, what will my children remember about their breakfast table? While my little ones have not yet experienced the joys of Cream of Wheat, they do know a thing or two about old-fashioned oatmeal. Warm and cozy, spiced oats simmered with just a touch of brown sugar, full of soft, diced apples and big cinnamon flavor. When oatmeal is on the menu, I make a big batch at the start of the week. Once the girls have made their way to the table in the morning, I simply add an extra splash of water or milk to the bowl, heat it up one serving at a time and give it a stir. It’s a breakfast I feel good about feeding them, and one they feel good about eating.
But, when their buried memories are triggered, what is it that they will have carried for an entire lifetime? What will they hear and what will they smell? Will they remember sitting at a big brown table behind little bowls of steaming oatmeal, or is it something else that will have made it through the test of time? I can only hope that whatever memory they conjure up, it will have made them feel warm and happy, and above all else, very loved.
- 3 Crisp & Tart Red Apples such as Jazz, Pink Lady or Honeycrisp
- 4 ½ c Water
- 1 ½ c High-Quality Apple Juice
- 4 c Old-Fashioned Oats
- 1 ½ tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 c Whole Milk
- ¼ c Brown Sugar
- 1 ½ tsp Cinnamon
- ¼ tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg
- 1 c Chopped Pecans
Peel and dice apples into ¼” pieces. Set aside until ready to use. In a large pot or a Dutch oven, bring the water and apple juice to a boil over high heat. Stir in oats, apples, and salt. Allow to come back to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for up to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture has thickened.
Add to the mixture the milk, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and stir until sugar is dissolved and remove from the heat. Stir in the pecans, finish with an extra pinch of salt (if desired) serve and enjoy.
Would pair well with: