Wednesday, 09 April 2014 11:35

Slow oats a way to unwind and have good dreams

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In my recurring nightmare, I’m standing over a garbage can in a restaurant service area, scraping English muffin rinds and congealed Hollandaise sauce onto a heap of pancake and waffle scraps.

Back on the farm, this would’ve been the slop pail, and would mean that the pigs were going to have a feast later on.
Here, however, at this particular pancake house, it’ll be up to one of the dishwashers to haul the bag out back, while I get to business cleaning spilled syrup from booth No. 4, where a family with five children spent the morning mashing french toast into the upholstery.
Sure, this time it’s just a dream, but back in the day, six o’clock in the morning was when my Sunday breakfast shifts used to start.
It was the summer before my second year of college, I was engaged to be married, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life except that I wanted to write, which, as far as I’d been told, was as ridiculous an aspiration as wanting to open a muffin shop on the moon.
For the year that followed, I studied English literature, then dropped out of school, worked to put my husband through cooking school in a different province, while writing long homesick letters that kept my friends and family in commiserative stitches.
Tonight, however, as I dip in and out of sleep, it’s just me and the pancake scraps. Me and the syrup spills. Me and the first boss I’d ever know whose management style was to treat all of her staff like the enemy. A person who caused the staff to spend most of their energies ducking flying monkeys, and easily made eight to 10 hours a day feel like being cut into bite-sized pieces and rolled in salt.
Next came the printing house, and a manager who stopped at my desk twice daily, set a twelfth cup of coffee down — having three times emptied the pot I was responsible for keeping full, in between keeping 10 phone lines from blinking — and asked if I was aware that I’d become much stupider since the day before. Then the temp job, where I showed up to find the entire back wall of the warehouse covered in pictures of topless women; where I felt more like a pudding cup than someone there to execute a task.
I’m betting, however, when I lodged a complaint and refused to go back, that it was difficult for that company to get someone else to come in and alphabetize their invoices.
Or, at least I hope it was difficult.
At the very least, it makes me grateful that, for the most part, I get to work alone. Or that when I’ve worked in collaboration, it’s been a good matchup of personalities.
I don’t dream of the pancake house very often anymore. And ever since it burned down and was replaced by a bank, I think of it even less.
How did the fire start?
Who knows.
I suppose that either enough sausage grease finally accumulated in the vent hood and caused that day’s catastrophic inferno. Or someone who’d worked there too long finally lost their minds and found a match.
It doesn’t really matter what the forensic findings were. Only that there are better places in town to get breakfast.
And now, when it comes to breakfast, whether it’s pancakes, waffles, French toast or my sister’s favourite recipe for overnight crock pot oatmeal using steel cut oats, I’m usually happiest to stay and make them all at home.

Apple-Cinnamon Slow Cooker Oatmeal

2 apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1-1/2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats (no substitutions)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbs butter, cut up into smaller pieces
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1/4 teaspoon salt

Lightly butter the inside of your slow cooker. Add all ingredients, then stir, cover, and cook on low for approximately 7 hours. Spoon oatmeal into cereal bowls and serve with milk. Refrigerate leftovers. (Freezes well.)
To reheat single servings: Into a microwave proof bowl, add 1 cup of the cooked oatmeal along with 1/3 cup milk. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir. Continue cooking for another minute, or until hot. Serve with more milk.

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