Awesome Oatmeal

I'm with Mark Bittman on the awesomeness of oatmeal, and especially with him on the notion of not overloading it with sugar, and, consequently, not ordering it from McDonald's. But I wonder about this:


Others will argue that the McDonald's version is more "convenient." This is nonsense; in the time it takes to go into a McDonald's, stand in line, order, wait, pay and leave, you could make oatmeal for four while taking your vitamins, brushing your teeth and half-unloading the dishwasher. (If you're too busy to eat it before you leave the house, you could throw it in a container and microwave it at work. If you prefer so-called instant, flavored oatmeal, see this link, which will describe how to make your own). 

 If you don't want to bother with the stove at all, you could put some rolled oats (instant not necessary) in a glass or bowl, along with a teeny pinch of salt, sugar or maple syrup or honey, maybe some dried fruit. Add milk and let stand for a minute (or 10). Eat. Eat while you're walking around getting dressed. And then talk to me about convenience.

I often hear this complaint from people who cook directed at people who don't. The notion basically holds that cooking isn't as inconvenient as people make it out to be. I don't know. I make my oatmeal in a pot at home--there's something blasphemous about microwaving it--but I don't own a dishwasher, and cleaning up actually is work. Moreover, I'm assuming people standing in that McDonald's line can, text, tweet, e-mail or whatever while they wait.

The bigger thing here is understanding why people go to McDonald's in the first place. I strongly suspect that the entire experience is comforting. In a day of constant work, pushes and pulls, you have this one clean place, which is the same everywhere, dispensing joyful shots of sugar and salt. That's just me thinking about how I've eaten the past--and also how I eat when my brain is crowded with everything besides what I'm eating. 

I think what Bittman urges in his writing is is consciousness. He wants people to think hard about what they're eating. I strongly suspect that people go to McDonald's for the exact opposite reason--to get unconscious. Understanding why that it is, goes beyond our food. It's about how we live.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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