Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Quaking in my oatmeal

I have arrived at the conclusion that if I am ever to pull a Halloween prank, I will use oatmeal. No toilet paper in the trees. No egging the front door of a house. Just cooked oatmeal, dribbled on an (in)appropriate surface, and left there to dry.

This conclusion reached me this morning, as it does every morning I skip my early morning stop at Dunkin Donuts, and instead settle into my cubicle with a freshly irradiated bowl of oatmeal.

I’d recommend the Quaker corporation’s Maple and Brown Sugar variety, but that’s only because that’s what comes out of my microwave after a minute and 38 seconds. I have no idea whether cinammon, or French Toast-flavored oatmeal would have the same effect.

But as I say, I come to this conclusion every day I eat oatmeal. It doesn’t hit me as I eat the oatmeal; rather, it strikes me about four hours later, when I remember the mostly empty bowl is sitting on the desk surface behind my chair. At that point, it’s too late to clean it by just blasting it with hot water in the sink, and much sponge work and elbow grease ensues. If I’m especially recalcitrant, the oatmeal will have spent a full workday hardening, and my departure for the afternoon bus will be delayed while I consider my various cleaning options – which almost always results in my adding water to the bowl and sticking it back in the microwave, figuring it’ll either rehydrate the oatmeal and make it easier to remove, or the water will get hot enough that it will scald the offending oat flakes into submission.

This is all somewhat important to consider as the weather gets cooler. I am not a year-round oatmeal guy. As with hot coffee, I wait until the weather has sufficiently cooled to the point where the warm food (or drink) is a nice relief.

(I’ve never really understood the line of reasoning that says a hot beverage – say, coffee – should be the default setting in the morning, rather than a cold beverage – say, Dr Pepper. Frankly, I quite enjoy the sensation that a nice, cold carbonated beverage makes, as it burns off the colonies of film that have taken up residence in my mouth overnight.)

So with the cold snap that has settled in (and which we, in Milwaukee, refer to as “fall”), it’s getting to be oatmeal season. And oatmeal – well, it sticks to the bowl. Given my propensity for putting off cleaning the bowl, I’ve tried branching out to something less sticky.

I like grits, for example. Even the instant ones. In fact, I once was at a somewhat cozy-but-not-altogether-agreeable breakfast place in Damariscotta, Maine and ordered grits. “Oh,” the waitress said, as though to discourage my choice, “they’re just instant ones.” As I recall, she succeeded in talking me out of the grits (new rule of thumb: never order grits in a restaurant north of Maryland), despite the fact that I don’t think I could tell instant grits from, well, slow-cooked(?) grits. I don’t even know if I’ve ever had non-instant grits. Regardless, eating grits – at work – more than once or twice a month seems like it come become an affectation, like getting a “Dukes of Hazzard” desktop theme for my computer.

I’ve also given Malt-o-Meal a shot, but even when I tried the chocolate flavor, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was eating wallpaper paste, or driveway caulk, and always wound up with ¾ of a box left uneaten in my pantry. In fact, there may be one there now.

That gives me another Halloween idea.

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