My grandmother made the best oatmeal. It was so good, it even tasted good cold.
She made it each morning for my grandfather who always left some for any of his grandchildren who wanted it.
I always did.
There were no microwaves, so oatmeal was made on the stove. And the remaining porridge sat in the pot waiting for me to eat it.
And eat it I did.
My mom stayed home until my younger sister started school. So, when I was in third grade mom began dropping us off at her mom’s before she went to work.
We stayed with my grandmother during summers until I was old enough for us to stay home while mom worked.
Going to my grandmothers before school shattered my morning ritual of Cap’n Crunch and Captain Kangaroo. I couldn’t imagine finding anything better.
But I did. My grandmother’s oatmeal. And her biscuits. And tuna sandwiches. And other staples of most kids’ 20th Century America.
She did everything the old fashioned way. But my family sought out new technology.
My mom and dad were the first in our extended family to get a microwave. Dad bought a Litton microwave that was so large, carpenters had to remove the lower wood that was part of the kitchen cabinet so it would fit.
And we began using the microwave to cook everything. Including instant oatmeal. On the rare occasions I ate instant oatmeal from the microwave, I thought nothing of it. It tasted OK.
Until I started eating my grandmother’s stove top Quaker Oats. Then I realized the purity and goodness of my grandmother’s cooking.
She had a microwave later in life, but I only remember her reheating coffee in it.
My memories of her working tirelessly over her stove are indelibly imbedded. She had six kids and 16 grandchildren. And she cooked for all of them, holiday after holiday, year after year.
And we all thought nothing of it. At least, not at the time.
Cooking was what grandmothers did. They cooked and baked, and we ate.
Hindsight, my grandmother sacrificed a lot. She could have told us that she’d had her turn of cooking and that we needed to step up.
But she didn’t. She not only cooked, she knew what each of us favored from her kitchen. And she made sure that we got it whenever we were around.
If I wasn’t full from eating her oatmeal, she’d make biscuits. Filled with real butter and homemade pear preserves, they were impossible to beat.
And she made them for me.
I can close my eyes and still smell and taste her biscuits, preserves and oatmeal. If I could only replicate them, I could have part of her back. Even if only for a short while.
My grandmother used a cast iron skillet to make her biscuits. There’s an unmistakable texture and flavor of biscuits made in cast iron, and I still cook in it frequently today.
My grandmother’s mother, my great grandmother, also used a cast iron skillet. When she passed, her Wagner 9-inch skillet went to my mom, and she gave it to me.
This seasoned part of my family tree still performs as it should when biscuits are made for my children or grandchildren.
I stopped eating oatmeal for breakfast when I began college. It was easier to skip the first meal of the day and guzzle a pot of coffee on my way to class.
As I’ve aged, my doctor encouraged me to not skip breakfast. And what did he recommend? Oatmeal.
My wife keeps instant oatmeal around, but to me, it tastes like paste. So, I requested a box of oatmeal. The kind you cook on the stove top.
My grandmother had always made her oatmeal before my sister and I arrived each summer morning. So, I must read the directions to make it.
And make it I do. Being an early riser, I make percolator coffee and a pot of oatmeal. And it’s good.
It’s not as good as my grandmother’s, but it’s good.
Years after my grandmother’s passing, I mentioned to my mother how good her oatmeal was. I asked why I never saw my grandmother eat any of it.
“Your grandmother didn’t like oatmeal,” mom said. “She made it for your grandfather and you because you both enjoyed it.”
That pretty much sums up grandmothers. Able to make something that is delicious. Even if they never even tasted it.
By John Moore