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Author Shelley Fraser Mickle
Air Date 1/7/2000

Oatmeal Transcript

My whole life has been mixed up with oatmeal, and some of it I don’t even like to talk about. It started back when I was four. Of course before then I’m sure I’d had oatmeal. No doubt it had been spooned into my mouth a couple of months after my birth. But oatmeal and I became on more urgent terms when I was four and had my tonsils out. That’s when that warm gray clumpy stuff half-drowned in milk was the only thing I could eat for days. My mother even let me have a hot cup of coffee with it, watered down with cream. But after my throat was no longer sore, I couldn’t give the stuff up. I simply had to have it to start off each day. I guess I was the only kid in the U.S. who from the first day of first grade began every morning with a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee. Without it, I simply could not think.

Tank me up on oatmeal, and I could add and subtract and name all the capitals of the United States. Without it, I was dumb as a door and slept through Show and Tell and the Pledge of Allegiance.

When I learned to read, my relationship with oatmeal deepened. For that’s when I fell in love with pioneer stories, and in every one of them the children got up each morning to eat mush on hardwood benches and to lead hard good lives. I identified with the characters so completely that I spooned up bowls and bowls of oatmeal while sitting on an orange crate, and all the while I could feel my character growing stronger and stronger.

By the time I got to high school, I’d given up the pioneer stories and the idea of sitting on an orange crate, but I couldn’t break my morning habit with oatmeal. And by the time you are sixteen that is not something you want to tell anyone. Eating oatmeal in high school is simply not cool. This is something I have never before talked about. And I have never told anyone, either, that by then I even thought the guy on the front of the Quaker Oats package was attractive.

But what really put the icing on the cake was when I was twenty-three and was at a fancy party one night in Boston. I was introduced to the grandson of the Quaker Oats family. I guess if I said we became engaged and got married, it would be a perfect ending to my story. But the fact is, I simply shook his hand and told him that his family had meant more to me than he could ever know. I left it at that. And I’m going to leave this story about oatmeal with only one other fact. Forget raisins, cinnamon, applesauce, or blueberries – I take my oatmeal plain. Gray, gooey, and every day. That’s the way I have to have it. But it’s okay with me if you don’t tell anyone.

Posted in Food, Stories