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The oat has certainly been on a tumultuous journey over the years. From its humble beginnings as a breakfast staple in the form of porridge, breaking out as dairy-free milk alternative, to hitting the hipster scene in the "overnight oats in a mason jar" movement.
Some of my earliest memories are standing on a chair in front of the Aga in my grandmother’s kitchen, diligently stirring a saucepan of milk and oats, waiting in anticipation for it to slowly thicken. It brought me so much joy to be able to provide my family with something I had put so much effort into making, and whether it was too lumpy or too runny, I always got big smiles from my grandfather and uncle before they set off to continue their day’s work on the farm.
This is where my relationship began with oats, and over the years, I have perfected my porridge-making abilities—much to the delight of my uncle and grandfather I’m sure. The health benefits were not of a concern to me, nor was I particularly aware of what they actually were. All I knew was that a bowlful of porridge on a cold, winter’s morning sent me off to school with a warm tummy and kept me full till lunchtime.
My next adventure with oats came in the form of flapjacks. Our house was not complete without a tin of flapjacks to snack on after school, and the delightful smell of flapjacks wafting from an oven, to do this day, takes me back to my mother’s kitchen where I can see myself licking the spoon from a freshly made batch.
Years passed, and I was spending less time in my grandmother’s kitchen and becoming less appreciative of the homemade snacks my mother was making us. Especially if things had gone a bit topsy turvy in the kitchen and they came out rock solid. Thus, my relationship with oats was not as strong as it once had been.
Nevertheless, they tried their best to continue to be a staple in my life and provide me with the nutrients and protein I needed. My mid-teens led me to the discovery of muesli—a far more sophisticated breakfast than plain, old cereal. Finding milk less and less appealing, a bowl of muesli with a dollop of yoghurt and fresh fruit was far more preferable in the morning.
It was not until I really began to cut down on dairy products, began travelling, and then living on a student budget that I realised the versatility of oats and the health benefits of them. Possibly one of the cheapest things you can pick up in the store, oats can be used in a variety of different ways. As mentioned, oat milk is now in every supermarket and there are brands that just focus on oat milk.
Regarding overnight oats, I am a huge fan and for multiple reasons. I almost always have oats in the cupboard and know that if I am running low on lunch ideas, I can easily prepare these for the next day. I like to cook, but rarely find the time to do so nowadays, so a couple of handfuls of oats, a splash of almond milk, peanut butter, chia seeds, and a chopped banana is the perfect combination of deliciousness. As you can add almost anything, it is hard to get boring with something so simple.
So here we are, oats and I are on good terms again, even though things have changed slightly over the years. Next on our adventure is breaking into my beauty regime. I have read a lot about the benefits of oats for your skin and feel it is about time I give it a go…. watch this space!