Al Batt: From mud pies to oatmeal within a simple eyeblink

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

It must have been the oatmeal that kept him going.

A friend died recently. He was 101. He’d had a good run.

Al Batt

I stayed at his place when I was a young fellow working around the Twin Cities. He and his wife were the kindest of our species. Breakfast was the same each morning. We’d sit at the kitchen table, surrounded by windows so we could watch the birds eat breakfast as we each devoured a 5-gallon tub of oatmeal with brown sugar. There were no supply chain problems with oatmeal. Chopped walnuts were an option. It was a yummy concoction that filled me for several days.

We talked as friends do. I sat in the chair under a wall plaque that read, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.”

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I’ve been told that so often, it might be true. It breaks the fasting. I like breakfast. It certainly is my favorite meal of the day. I’ve wondered how important breakfast would be if I ate it three times a day.

I grew up on the three meals a day plan — breakfast, dinner and supper. Lunch was something we ate between those meals or while at work. Now I’ve moved to breakfast, lunch and dinner. I don’t know why or when I abandoned supper. Lunch dislodged dinner and dinner displaced supper. I hope the change made someone happy.

There are days when I’m hungry, but I’m not hungry for anything except oatmeal. I have a hankering or a craving. I figure breakfast is OK anytime as it must be 7 a.m. somewhere. My 101-year-old friend had taught me a bad day with oatmeal was better than a good day without it. I might have brunch, a meal late in the morning that combines a late breakfast and an early lunch or maybe I’d eat brinner, a meal taken later in the day that combines a late breakfast and an early dinner.

My life has been a winding road of breakfast cereals. I’ve kept company with Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Sugar Pops (only until my cerebral cortex matured), Corn Flakes, Wheaties (The Breakfast of Champions), Rice Krispies (Snap, Crackle and Pop’s cereal is best made into bars), Shredded Wheat (tiny hay bales), Kashi (I hoped to get a discount on my health insurance premiums) and Cap’n Crunch or Frosted Flakes whenever I needed a dessert cereal.

As a kid, I could eat if it had milk and sugar on it. Today, I replace the sugar with honey. I read the cereal boxes. It’s important to know how much riboflavin I’m getting.

Not long ago, one of those cereal brands celebrated 80 years of putting whole grain oats into mouths. Cheerios, which once sponsored the Lone Ranger. I read in a waiting room somewhere that Frosted Flakes is the most popular cereal in Minnesota, Honey Nut Cheerios in Iowa and Lucky Charms in Wisconsin.

My parents favored Grape-Nuts. I don’t understand that cereal. It’s not a proud moment when I admit to not understanding a breakfast cereal, but it has no grapes or nuts. What’s the deal with that? The theory is the nuggets look like grape seeds and it has a nutty flavor. Andy Griffith and Barney Fife heralded the goodness of Grape-Nuts in TV commercials. During World War II Grape-Nuts was a part of jungle rations and explorer Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay took Grape-Nuts with them while trekking to the top of Mount Everest. Euell Gibbons uttered these famous lines in a Grape-Nuts TV commercial, “Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible,” and “Its naturally sweet taste reminds me of wild hickory nuts.” Dad told me Methuselah ate Grape-Nuts. Mush! I called it gravel and ate it when I ran out of everything else.

I had oatmeal this morning, with cranberries and flax in my favorite bowl. The bowl has an institutional look but has served me well. I sat at the cool kids’ table (I was the only one there) and watched birds eat breakfast. I used my superpowers to shovel oatmeal into my gaping maw with my favorite spoon.

Oatmeal, the breakfast of regular champions.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday