When I was a pixie-haired kid, oatmeal was a gelatinous mass of gray putrescence in a shiny stainless steel serving tray in the breakfast line at camp. I have no memory of eating oatmeal at home. I watched as a smiling, steamed lady behind the counter served up a wedge of gray mush-matter onto the food tray of the camper ahead of me in line. Shudder. Thankfully there were scrambled eggs, triangles of toast and colorful honeycombs of juice glasses filled with orange, grape or apple liquid. Oh, and those one serving size boxes of cereal that you could cut open and eat from the box if you wanted. The oatmeal shudder has colored my memory darkly of that pretty log dining hall with a huge fireplace that crackled us awake while it rained outside. Dark room. Dark memory in an otherwise bright camp.
Leap forward like a grasshopper to now, when oatmeal with dried or fresh fruit, walnuts and vanilla almond milk is one of my most pleasurable meals. Before deciding something is putrid, a person really ought to taste it, in a well prepared and presented state. Steel cut oats are less milled than rolled oats, so they are a better source of fiber. For years we had brought steel cut oats to a boil on the stove the night before, boiled one minute, covered, let sit overnight, then simmered in the morning for 10 minutes, stirring all the while. This method kept me from just going to my overstuffed red leather chair and waking up with a cup of coffee, which is what I really wanted to do. (See those precarious stacks of books in the top left photo below? That's my table, next to said chair, in the family room next to the kitchen.) My sister-in-law Wilma taught us a new quick easy method for cooking steel cut oats. With this slow cooker method, because it isn't cooked on the stove, we even eat it in the summer. In fact, we eat this almost every single day and never tire of it. The amount we make provides leftovers for the two of us for a couple of days. We refrigerate what's left right in the Pyrex bowl, plastic wrapped, then we reheat it in a double boiler.
By the way (post script), we find steel cut oats at the health food store, and at Whole Foods. Those of you outside the U.S., you're on your own! But you can ask for this, and see if they laugh (at my literal translations via an online translator): Spanish: avena de corte de acero; Portuguese: aveia de aço de corte; French: l'avoine en acier de coupure; British English: porridge?)
You’ll need a slow cooker. Ours is a big one.
And a Pyrex-type (heat-proof) bowl. Ours is 2 ½ quarts (2.5 liters).
Before going to bed at night, set the bowl in the slow cooker. Fill the slow cooker, not the bowl, with about 2 inches of water.
Into the Pyrex bowl, pour 2 cups steel cut oats, 6 cups water (any 1-3 ratio), a handful of dried fruit if you wish (we do dried Michigan cherries), and a little salt. Stir.
Cover the slow cooker, and turn it to Low. (Don't forget to plug it in.)
Next morning, you’ll awaken to a house filled with a warm, nutty fragrance, and your delicious oatmeal is ready to serve and eat, though I usually turn it down to Warm and drink two cups of coffee first. Ahhh, time to read the NYTimes Op Eds Nicholas Kristoff and Gail Collins, and some blogs . . .