When a dear childhood friend comes in for the weekend and, on the last night of his visit, you stay up until 2am gabbing, giggling, and crying your way through a box of tissues, and the next morning you wake up early because, despite the draw of your pillow, you hunger for just a few more minutes together before he has to leave for the airport, it's time for a pot of farewell oatmeal.
Joel and I met in the eighth grade. He would sit behind me in French class and playfully poke my back with a pencil. I would respond with the requisite combination of feigned irritation, "I'm ignoring you" poker faces, and shy, backward glances that culminated in the occasional toothy grin.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one on the receiving end of some gentle prodding. Joel, it turns out, had a mother to contend with, a mother who thought it best that her son invite me to the upcoming school dance, and she wasn't afraid to say so. Bless Joel's sweet little pencil poking heart, invite me he did. And I, in a grand adolescent gesture of who the heck knows what turned the lovie down. I know, dear reader, I was pure evil. To this day I have no idea why. I do recall wailing to my poor mother about the earth shattering crisis of having been invited to a dance by a cute and seemingly lovely young man. The tears I shed. Though in retrospect all of this carrying on probably had less to do with our honey, Joel, and more to do with a fever-y bug that was coming on. I missed the next three days of school, and who do you think called to ask if he might bring me my books and missed assignments? I sheepishly accepted Joel's very kind offer, and our friendship officially began. Over the next few years, we played opposite each other in all the school plays, worked on our biology assignments together late into the night, and on more than one occasion attempted to contact the dead with the help of a frighteningly responsive OUIJA board.
It is at this point clear, I hope, that Joel's departure from Cambridge was not to be taken lightly. A slow pot of oats was just the thing to stretch out our remaining time together, and add a little leisure to a morning of quick showers and hurried packing. The milk took its time coming to a boil, and the oats rose and fell in long, frothy sighs. Soon I was no longer stirring, but pushing and scraping my way through the thickening oats with a big wooden spoon.
Joel marveled first at the whole rolled oats that came pouring out of a canister ("What? Where are the little paper packets?"), and then at the uniquely creamy consistency of stove-top simmered oats.
But even the snooziest bowls of steamy oats must ultimately make way for the rest of the day, even when that day includes a farewell you'd rather not face.
So long for now, Joel-ie. Come back soon.
This recipe serves three, but you can adjust the quantity up or down by following this simple formula: 1/2 c. of rolled oats per person, and 1 c. of milk per 1/2 c. of oats. Adjust the other ingredients up or down according to taste.
1.5 c. of rolled oats
3 c. milk
A few grinds of sea salt
1 T. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1 t. vanilla
1 c. toasted pecans or almonds (I prefer pecans in this recipe, but almonds will work in a pinch)
1 c. dried cherries
Bring the oats, milk, and a few turns of sea salt to a boil in a saucepan. Use a medium flame; a fire that's too hot may scorch the milk and make for an unpleasant pot cleaning situation later on. Stir occasionally to keep the oats and milk from sticking to the pot.
Once the oatmeal reaches a boil, turn the flame down as low as possible so that it just simmers. Stir, push, and scrape the bottom and sides of the pot every now and then. Carry on for about 10 minutes, until the oats and milk have merged into delicious creaminess. About half way through, stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.
Cover, and let sit for 3-5 minutes.
Scoop into bowls and top with toasted nuts and dried cherries. Serve with a pitcher of milk and a bowl of extra brown sugar.