Did you know that oatmeal may quite possibly have disappeared into obscurity if it wasn’t for the great Oatmeal Wars of 1987? Breakfast bowls were waiting to be filled with healthy cereals and General Mills was positioning themselves to take over with a new product coming to market named Total, promising more nutrition than its anchored rival and market leader Quaker Oats. Quaker, the grand dame of breakfast cereals and not to be outdone, responded right away and deployed teams of researchers to hold surveys and focus groups. What they came up with was a campaign focusing on health benefits over taste (great idea, lol) and the obvious spokesperson at the time was the unglamorous and un-glitzy Wilford Brimley. Just hearing his name makes your eyelids heavy and your general mood sleepy. His hard assed message telling us that “Quaker Oats, It’s the right thing to do” lasted well over a decade and still invokes certain memories for many of us still to this day.
But don’t be fooled by the 80’s. Oatmeal is nothing new around here, wild oats were being eaten for breakfast as early as the Neolithic and Bronze ages. The romans cultivated it. The Teutons and the Gaul’s used it to make gruel.
Oats are the workhorse of the grain family, and while it may not be the most popular grain on the list of grains it is unarguably one of the most beneficial when it comes to health. It’s a low glycemic index food, high in fiber and helps to lower cholesterol.
Oats are considered one of the natural superfoods, they are 100% whole grain with minimal processing, and contain vitamins, minerals and fiber. Oats are unique in that they are one of the richest sources of beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol reabsorption. They’re also low in sodium and provide protein and carbohydrate for energy.
Technically speaking, oats are a “wholegrain”. This means that they contain all three parts of the edible grain in the same proportions as found in nature. The outer layer of the oat is called the bran. It protects the seed and is rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, and contains B vitamins and minerals. The middle layer of the oat is called the endosperm, which provides energy for the seed and contains protein and carbohydrates. The core of the oat is called the germ, which nourishes the seed and contains antioxidants, vitamins and healthy fats.
In our little corner of the world, the beautiful state of South Dakota produces the largest crop of Oats in the United States followed by North Dakota and Wisconsin. When it comes to world production, the U.S. comes in sixth place with a production of .87 million metric tons as of 2019. Just a little under sixty years ago the farms of America produced a crop that was twice as large, coming in at 1.67 million metric tons. Overall, Russia is the worlds top producer of the grain accounting for over 20% of the worlds production. In 2013 Russia produced a staggering 4.02 million metric tons of oats. Canada and Poland are also major players in the oat game accounting for 2.7 and 1.4 million metric tons that same year.
Today we enjoy two basic types of oatmeal in our bowl, the “steel cut” variety and the “old fashioned” variety. Steel cut oats are made when the groat has been cut into 2-3 smaller pieces using a steel blade. Old fashioned oats are first steamed and then flattened down. In a side by side comparison steel cut and old fashioned oats are almost the same when it comes to nutritional value. However, with this being said, steel cut oats are more of a bang for your nutritional buck than old fashioned oats in two areas, fiber content and density.
Oatmeal is so easy to destroy and turn into a gloppy mess making it a seriously hated breakfast option. The objective is to take your time, and make a creamy bowl of oatmeal. Even though oatmeal is thought to be quick and easy there’s no need to rush it, so just slow it down a little.
Use the right amount of water and milk. Using just one or the other gives you a definite pre determined result. All water makes a flavorless mix void of the extra protein that adding milk can give and an all milk makes a stickier, thicker oatmeal. A 75% water and 25% milk or almond milk ratio makes a seemingly perfect blend.
Do you want your oatmeal with a more textured feel and intact oats? Than be sure to add your oats after the water has come to a boil. Looking for a creamier texture? Than add your oatmeal to cold water and bring them both up to a boil. To further prevent your oatmeal from being thrown directly into the trash bin by the eater, add a little spice to the mix. Use things like vanilla, ground cinnamon, nutmeg or clove. Top it all off with fresh fruit like apples or berries, dried fruits and chopped or whole nuts, flaked coconut, brown sugar or whatever else you and your family enjoy.
1c. old-fashioned rolled oats (such as Quaker Oats Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats)
1/4 c. milk
1 3/4 c. water
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. vanilla
Combine milk, water, salt, vanilla and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Add oatmeal
Simmer uncovered for 3 to 5 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Divide equally between two bowls. Add additional desired toppings and serve.