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Dietribes: Oatmeal

• Though Samuel Johnson wrote in his Dictionary of the English Language that oats were ”a grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people,” to which Lord Elibank (so wrote Sir Walter Scott) replied, “Very true, and where will you find such men and such horses?”’

• Oats contain the highest proportion of soluble fiber of any grain (soluble fiber is the kind also found in kidney beans, apples, barley and prunes). It can reduce the absorption of cholesterol, and contains iron, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. 1.5 cups of cooked oatmeal provides 6 grams of fiber, and you can mix it up by trying steel-cut oats or color cereal mixed with cold bran.

• Yeah, I know … none of that sounds exciting. Honestly, without a lot of butter and cream, most oatmeal isn’t something to get jazzed about. But before you buy that instant mix, consider the far healthier whole grain variety and add your own sweetener (such as honey, maple syrup or agave).

• Famously, oatmeal can be soothing to your skin. Some claim it helps with acne (warm it up them cool it down to a lukewarm temp, apply and let stand for one minute before rinsing), and is also often sold as part of scrubs, soaps and lotions.

• Seeing oatmeal in a different light? Just checked your pantry and all you found was that dusty box from a decade or so ago? Not to worry – oatmeal (and some other pantry foods) actually lasts a lot longer than you would think.

• Oatmeal has come back in vogue in recent years as being a quick, simple and very healthy breakfast. Artist Jennifer Rubell took it one step further and turned the concept into art. Her installation of an oatmeal-filled house (or a house dedicated to the production of oatmeal) is not just for looks – visitors are asked to create and sample their own oatmeal concoctions.

• The consumption of oatmeal was also once a patriotic act. With most of the nation’s wheat supplies being sent to soldiers abroad during World War I, the U.S. Food Administration urged Americans to consume more oats. One poster had a message just to for whiny kids: Little Americans. Do Your Bit. Eat Oatmeal. Save the Wheat for our Soldiers. Leave Nothing On Your Plate. And another: Food Will Win the War!

• Though often used interchangeably, the difference between oatmeal and porridge is subtle, and is mostly related to the cutting of the oats in production techniques.

• We just passed oatmeal month (January), but don’t let that slow your consumption! Besides, there are only 7 months before the Oatmeal Festival in Oatmeal, Texas. What once began, in 1977, as an attempt to put the tiny town back on the map has evolved into “one of the wackiest, most imaginative small-town festivals anywhere.”

• I cannot complete a post on Oatmeal without mentioning the well-known Quaker man and oatmeal’s spirit animal, Wilford Brimley. In 1877 Quaker Oats registered a trademark for “a figure of a man in Quaker garb.” Why the Quaker choice? The former owners claim they wanted to be associated with the Quaker’s good quality and honest value. 110 years later, the first Wilford Brimley commercial aired, opening the way, a few decades later, to an infinite number of internet memes.

• So how do you Flossers take your oats? Rolled, steel-cut, or not at all? And how do you dress ‘em up? (or do you like them plain and hearty?)

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.


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