Everyone is bored with breakfast these days. I’m not sure what it is–the monotony, the lack of urgency to get out the door, the repetition that renders it boring? The promise of a full belly holds no sway over the Goobies these days. Lucky Charms doesn’t even seem to tempt them to the table. Breakfast in isolation robs us of our appetite, it seems. Morning meals still happen, sluggish as they are now, but none of us are particularly fond of the mopey feet and grumbling tummies that bring us to the table.
Reality met us there every morning, and no one was particularly fond of the unwanted guest.
Distracting the Goobies with sugary treats wasn’t much of a long term strategy anyway, so I wasn’t surprised when the junk food meant to transform isolation into adventure lost its appeal after about two weeks. After opening and closing the pantry dozens of times in a day, the Goobies tired of it without eating one bite.
I suppose it is my fault. The oven used to be hard at work before any of the Goobies got out of bed. That was back then, before the virus shut down school and stole my energy without even infecting my body. My sanity is still here, but my stamina? Not so much.
Making all the things from scratch? Yikes. I try so hard to not grow weary in doing good, and all, but I can’t seem to pull myself together before 9:30 in the morning these days. The idea of making muffins at 6:00 am makes me want to pull the covers over my head and hide. But without the aroma of freshly baked breakfast treats harkening the day, no one seems inspired to eat much at all. The old standbys of oatmeal or eggs don’t even do the trick these days. I got tired of asking “What would you like for breakfast?” and resorted to “Pour yourself a bowl of cereal or eat up the last leftover biscuit with a dollop of jam and don’t ask me for any help, please.” We have plenty of food, but our appetites are all but gone.
One day a couple weeks ago I rustled through the pantry looking for something quick to grab, not because I wanted to eat so much as I wanted to stop my stomach from voicing its opinion that I should. Making sure there’s plenty of easy-to-grab, allergy safe options for the Goobies side lined my own self-care. I shopped for my sanity, meaning: I made sure they were set. Making sure they could feed themselves if need be seemed to be more important than stocking up on gluten free foods for myself, until I got hungry.
On that particular day when there wasn’t much to appease my cranky stomach other than a random apple sauce squeezer, I realized again why taking care of myself matters: if I don’t do it, it won’t happen. No one is to blame for the sudden decrease in gluten free foods around here but me. If I don’t make a plan, do the shopping, and execute the plan, the pantry is bare. Frustrated with no one but myself (and ok, so fine–also the situation), I rolled my eyes and grabbed the oats and flicked on the oven, and got to work on making granola.
Granola is a staple that gives me so much grief anyway, so making a batch out of frustration felt normal. Oats are gluten free, but not ubiquitously so. Granola should be gluten free, but it’s not always. And even if it is, it usually contains nuts or seeds the kids can’t have, and ditto for the grain free versions. Even the store bought bags that almost work perfectly still contain sunflower oil, which Emery still isn’t cleared to consume. After his bout of anaphylaxis, we just don’t keep stuff around here unless it’s safe for all the Goobies to eat too, so I skip the “almost” safe for nothing at all. It’s aggravating, especially when having shelf-stable foods on hand is important. Making granola from scratch wasn’t a leisurely Saturday morning activity; it’s an act of survival.
And yes, ok, I know that sounds dramatic. Our family will continue to live just fine if I had decided to skip making granola that day. It’s the principal of the thing that matters more here. Granola is a simple food that is just plain not simple for our family or so many others. When I think about the simple, basic food my thoughts pan out to the wider view of the complicated allergy life we lead. Simple food is always the best food, isn’t it? Most serious cooks would agree with this whether their family has allergies or not. Simple food works well for our allergy life, except when it doesn’t, and when those moments emerge they swirl my sanity and wrench the illusion of control out of my hands.
So much is out of my control anyway, always. Being diligent and doing my best is all I can do because outside circumstances aren’t up to me. Momentary hunger forced me to think in a wider scope of how to hang if things get really, really bad–the thought of which, of course, makes me crumble.
But the truth is I can’t control much beyond my own attitude, and when I took my slumped self by the shoulders and talked some sense into her, I reached out for the oats and was thankful to have them. As I swirled them together with honey and vanilla, I whispered a prayer of thanks for being equipped to do something today that can help prepare for tomorrow.
I slipped the pan into the oven to crisp up a bit, and soon the sweet, comforting smells of home called the kids into the kitchen to ask, “What is that yummy smell?”
Five words that made the whole ordeal worth it. Reality met us at the table again, but this time it was a welcome friend who reminded us to embrace the truth of what is.
We lost a lot. We’re sad, of course. And nervous and frustrated and uncertain. But there are so many good things right inside our very own doors waiting for us to reach for them, things ready to bring us together at the table with a renewed sense of now and to do what we can with what we have for the sake of a better tomorrow.
Granola is arguably one of the most adaptable pantry staples you can make at home. Make it gluten free or not, nut free or not, all-the-things-free or not. Swap out safe ingredients for things that don’t work for your family. This recipe contains almonds (because that is the one tree nut our family safely consumes on the regular), but if your family is allergic to nuts just leave them out and add more oats instead, leave out the almond extract, and call it a day. These simple ingredients are likely lurking in your cupboards now, making this recipe totally achievable if your pantry is running as low as your energy. This granola is flakey, but if you prefer granola with lots of clusters, double the amount of oil and honey. Out of yogurt? We like ours sprinkled on top of an extra-thick fruit smoothie.