Tuesday, March 18, 2014

they will keep coming back to you

For me, one of the best parts of visiting far away friends and family is having my coffee made for me. I mean, I guess this is beside the obvious benefit of seeing said friends. My normal routine when I'm home is to get the coffee pot ready the night before and set the timer so that it's brewed by the time I wake up. Staying with friends (or, as was the case last week, having friends stay with me) means that I don't have to think about coffee the night before, because my friends make it for me. (It is occurring to me now that maybe this is something to look for in a husband - someone who will make my coffee? Noted.)

A few weeks ago I stayed with some dear friends in Seattle who made my coffee for me - nice and strong, too. The first morning I was with them I welcomed the coffee but refused breakfast. I had a banana and was eager to get out the door and downtown for the last day of my writing conference. The second morning was different. It was a cold, rainy Sunday morning, and I'd just slept more than 10 hours after 3 long days at the writing conference. I wandered downstairs in my pajamas, hoping there was still some coffee left. Parents were puttering around the kitchen while the kids played around them. They would soon be heading off to church for the morning, while I would stay back and watch rain from their window and contemplate a run (but instead wrap myself in a blanket and read one of the books I'd bought during the conference and allow all the new ideas from the past few days settle in). On the counter, my friend had assembled breakfast options: some rhubarb crisp and two different kinds of oatmeal, which she makes in big batches to nourish her family for days on end.

And that's what I wanted to tell you about, because this oatmeal almost outdid the strong coffee that was waiting for me that morning. I know what you're thinking - oatmeal is usually pretty boring, especially before it's sweetened with raisins and brown sugar. But this oatmeal was special. To make it, my friend had sliced fresh ginger root and added it and some cardamom pods to water, and set it to boil. When the water bubbled and rolled, she added the oats, but also some shredded carrots (and I think she told me she put coconut milk cream in there, but I'm not sure when that happened). I heated mine up with raisins and sugar. It was warm and homey and filling, just like my stay with these friends. And I realized that my friends are on to something here because when you feed your guests this kind of food and have the coffee waiting for them in the morning, they will keep coming back to you.

I've recreated the oatmeal a few times since I've come home. Here's a quick recipe in case you want to try it for yourself (and some future houseguests).

Warm and Homey Oatmeal (yes, I just made that name up)
1 3/4 cup water
sliced fresh ginger
a pinch of salt
a piece of cinnamon stick
a few cardamom pods
a few whole cloves*

Bring these all to a boil over high heat in a covered pot.

Add:
1 cup oatmeal
1/2-ish cup grated carrots
handful of raisins (I used regular, golden would be great, too)

Turn burner down to medium. Bring mixture back to low boil, and cook for about 5 minutes or to your preferred consistency, stirring occasionally. If you plan to use some as leftovers, I'd leave on the thinner side because it thickens as you let it sit.

Makes 2 servings (approximately).

*I haven't tried the cloves yet, but the idea came this morning. I plan to try it next time.

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