I’ve always hated oatmeal. Loathed it. For as long as I can remember, I found it bland, unpleasant tasting, and repulsively viscous—almost snot-like. And not regular snot, either. It reminded me of the extremely thick and lumpy mucus one develops during a severe flu or cold. Even oatmeal’s color was direly unattractive to me. So when it was highly recommended as a key to successful weight loss by a diet program I was starting, you can imagine how unhappy I was.
People are always astounded to find out how much I dislike oatmeal. “What? Who hates oatmeal?! It’s like one of the most wholesome and simple foods available, nurturing young and old alike. You’re a monster!” Yep. Rawr.
Being someone who enjoys food, who is highly creative on several fronts and interested in trying new things and challenging myself, I became determined to find a solution to my oat-rage, and set forth on an odyssey of figuring out how to make oatmeal taste good.
Several years of desk jobs and stress-eating had led to my gaining quite a few pounds. The Covid-19 pandemic along with other personal and professional circumstances landed me in a phase of existential revelations and self-reinvention, propelling me to begin a journey of feeling better both physically and mentally.
Having heard good things about it, I began a trial of a popular weight-loss program. Healthier, less calorie-dense breakfast choices were at the top of the list for the regimen, and oatmeal was strongly suggested as a breakfast staple. Given my lifelong dislike of the lumpy, drab substance, I really wrestled with how to make it palatable.
A lot of people—most, it seems— enjoy sweet elements with their oatmeal, almost dessert-like by my standards. This was a two-fold dilemma for me: first, sweetening adds calories; second, I’ve never really had much of a sweet tooth.
I searched deep and wide online for various recipes to breathe life into the culinary lifeless corpse that was oatmeal, but to my dismay, the recipes were largely unimaginative, differing only slightly from one another. (“Try adding blueberries instead of strawberries! It’ll change your life!” Yawn, and no.) All of the recipes leaned toward the sweet end, and I skew heavily toward savory foods. I consulted friends who are chefs, food writers, and artistic renegades. A few interesting ideas were tossed around, but none that seemed overly appealing and practical for me.
I was bemoaning my oat woes to my mom over the phone one day, so she reached into the farthest depths of her pantry and dusted off a 1979 edition of The Quaker Oats Wholegrain Cookbook from my childhood. There were some conspicuously desperate concoctions listed in the volume, but an oat pilaf using bouillon sparked an idea.
The next morning, filled with a manic spirit of experimentation rivaled only by Dr. Frankenstein, I added Caldo de Tomate (the Mexican tomato and chicken bouillon found in many a New Mexican home) to the water I would boil my oats in. The finished oatmeal had a nice savory aspect that perfectly masked its inherent oatey-ness, and slightly undercooking it reduced the mushy viscosity, but it was still missing something. I decided to also add jalapeño and green onions to add freshness and brighten the dish, and behold—my new, healthier breakfast option was born!
My determination and experimentation have paid off. I found a way to enjoy a healthy and affordable food, which has contributed to me losing 42 pounds (and counting) in three and a half months. I feel better, I look better, and I guess you could say I’m feeling oat of this world!
1 cup water (or slightly less, as I prefer a firmer final texture)
1 tsp, slightly rounded, Caldo de Tomate
½ cup old-fashioned oats
½ to 1 green onion, diced
Sliced fresh jalapeño to whatever heat level you prefer
Add Caldo de Tomate to water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add oats, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. I like to add the jalapeño and green onions about 4 minutes in, allowing them to infuse a bit of their flavor into the oats while still retaining their freshness. Serve in a small bowl, or eat it straight out of the pan while standing over the sink, as I often do—no judgement here!