Since Monday, I’ve been promising Matt that I would make him a big batch of oatmeal so that he has something in the house for breakfast besides toast. But here it is, Thursday, and Matt ate a bowl of spaghetti bolognese before heading to work because I still hadn’t manged to boil a pot of water with oats.
This is my week off between jobs, so one might wonder why I haven’t managed to accomplish something so simple. The short answer is that I’ve gone on a home and self improvement tear. I am laying the groundwork for a truly fresh start at my new job on Monday. I bought new clothes and makeup, donated bags of old clothes, reorganized closets, rearranged all of our art objects, rearranged shelves, dusted and scrubbed everything, and sorted through old memorabilia and added odds and ends from four years of work memories to the box.
The longer answer is that all my time and energy is focused on coping with my major life change. I usually welcome change and seek it out every once in a while just to give me new purpose and make sure that I’m still actively engaged in life and not just coasting through. Over the past eight years, I’ve held eight different positions in five different offices, so I am no stranger to picking up and starting again. But this feels different. Maybe it’s because I’m older, maybe it’s because I’m leaving behind my best friend, and an office full of coworkers who have become my closest companions in DC. Or maybe it’s because I’m not sure I’ve made the right decision, a fear that has been eating at me for weeks.
I am slowly running out of projects and yet I still have this nagging sense that there is so much to do before I begin this new job. I have a few small paint jobs to tackle, I could always scrub the kitchen floor again, but I know these things won’t shake the feeling. Rather than continue to slave away over endless household tasks, I finally slowed down before lunch today and took the time to make Matt his oatmeal. I tried a new recipe, baked with blueberries, bananas, walnuts and cinnamon. It made the kitchen smell fantastic and it took everything I had not to eat a second breakfast. It occurred to me while I cooked, that the vague incomplete feeling is one that hits me every time I have a new opportunity or exciting news. I want to pick up the phone and call dad and tell him all about it. But I can’t tell dad and I feel his absence at these times far more than others. So, while I am getting rid of and replacing all my things, I am holding fast to my friends. As much as I love change, I love the people in my life even more and I hope I am lucky enough to keep my friends with me through many more changes to come.
Baked Oatmeal from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
2 cups/7 oz/200 g rolled oats
1/2 cup/2 oz/60 g walnut pieces, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup/2 oz/60 g natural cane sugar or maple syrup, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 cups/475 ml milk
1 large egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2-inch/1 cm pieces
1 1/2 cups/6.5 oz/185 g huckleberries, blueberries, or mixed berries
Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C with a rack in the top third of the oven. Generously butter the inside of an 8-inch/20cm square baking dish.
In a bowl, mix together the oats, half the walnuts, the sugar, if using, the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, if using, the milk, egg, half of the butter, and the vanilla.
Arrange the bananas in a single layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle two-thirds of the berries over the top. Cover the fruit with the oat mixture. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture over the oats. Gently give the baking dish a couple thwacks on the countertop to make sure the milk moves through the oats. Scatter the remaining berries and remaining walnuts across the top.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and the oat mixture has set. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Drizzle the remaining melted butter on the top and serve. Sprinkle with a bit more sugar or drizzle with maple syrup if you want it a bit sweeter.