Several years ago, I stayed with a few girlfriends at a B&B run by Agnes, who lives on a farm off the western edge of Ireland. From the moment we arrived we were fed quite well, including dinner, which was fresh caught from the ocean by her son. We had a proper Irish breakfast the next morning with the traditional white and black puddings, fried tomato and egg, thick slabs of brown bread, muesli, yogurt, and then pots of tea. After I was stuffed as could be, I slipped into the kitchen to ask Agnes a question. She was just tidying up and there, sitting at a tiny table away from the guests, was her farmer husband in his wool socks, tucking into a homely and simple bowl of porridge.
I immediately wished I could take all of my breakfast back, forget my friends, and sit at the table with him eating homely oats and chatting about the first frost date, how much rain we’ve received, the work that needs done before the storm, and other farmer things.
If ever I fed people food for a living instead of words and ideas, I would feed them porridge.
It is the meal I most closely associate with the term comfort food, and the one I’ll gladly eat any time of day but especially at the end of a long and discouraging one. It is the breakfast I always hope is fed to me when I stay at a friend or relative’s house, and at home in my own kitchen, it is the one I love to change throughout the seasons with all variations of grains, fruits, and flavors. I’m especially partial to thick-rolled oats but lately I’ve also been experimenting with various ratios of amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, and polenta.
And then I always seem to return to oats. Perhaps this is because I grew up on its simplicity and homeliness, eating it slowly on nearly frosty mornings at the same table I have now, as I listened to my dad talk about the weather and other farmer things in his wool socks.
Chai-Spiced Pear Oats, serves 2
I’ve made a variation of these oats nearly every morning for the past 60+ days–so it is high time to share. Feel free to experiment with the spices. Essentially, these are chai flavors here without the black tea. I add a touch more ginger and a bit less of the others and then another hefty pinch of black pepper at the end just because. A little wisp of blackstrap molasses stirred in gives it a little extra depth of flavor but this can be made much simpler and still succeed. Just try to use nice, soft pears and there will be no need for additional sweetener.
2 cups water
1 cup thick-rolled oats
1-2 pears, depending on size
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cardamom
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
2-4 Tbs. ground flax seed
1/4-1/2 tsp. blackstrap molasses
- In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Turn down to medium, and then stir in the oats and spices. While that begins to cook, slice and chop the pears into smallish pieces and then dump them into the pan and give the whole mixture another good stir. I tend to use the entire pear because it is all good–save the stem.
- Let the pears and oats soften until nearly at your desired consistency, 10-15 minutes. Then stir in the ground flax and finish with a teeny measure of blackstap.
- Pour into two bowls and serve.