If you think apple pie is the symbol for motherhood, home, and country, then authors Shirley and Maria Streshinsky would like you to think again. In their new book, Oats! A Book Of Whimsy they substantiate oats' claim for the hearth with quotes, poems, and recipes from a disparate group of people ranging from Rose Kennedy to Barbara Kafka.
Oats! is more than a primer with recipes. This funny, smart, two-generational book offers a happy conglomeration of oat stories, X Generation energy tips, valuable cooking information, recipes, and wisecracks, along with facts and stats on oats and their role in health. Twenty-five "h'oat cuisine" recipes will make you feel good inside and out. Included are directions for making scones, trail mix, pancakes, high energy bars, old fashioned crisps, even beauty masques and sunburn treatments from food, beauty, and medical authorities. Vegetarian cookbook writer Mollie Katzen shares her Pecan-Oat Muffins, the chefs of Ritz-Carlton, their Muesli, and stylist-to-the-stars Phillip B., his Oatmeal, Rice, and Coconut Bath recipe, to give an idea of the riotous range of this compact paean to the oat.
History is not neglected. The Streshinskys explain how oats brought to this country by Irish and German immigrants in the 19th century were originally the food of the poor. Their popularity caught on as a cheap and nutritious food under the aegis of the Quaker Oats company, launched in 1880. Today, a whopping 80 per cent of U.S. households have oatmeal in their pantries (a majority of it in the round container with the old Quaker gentleman smiling out).
The authors concede that oats are serious business—high in fiber, low in fat, sodium-free and a good source of complex carbohydrates, they contain more protein than any other major grain. During the 1980s, oats, and oat bran in particular, was touted as the magic bullet to vanquish cholesterol and save hearts. In the 1990s, the mighty FDA has finally sent down word that indeed, a diet rich in oatmeal can go a long way toward protecting a healthy heart. Best of all, this natural "health" food can be enjoyed in a multitude of dishes, because unlike many other grains, you can dress it up, cook it in a variety of dishes, or—like Scots—just eat it plain with fresh spring water (and perhaps a dollop of whisky on top).
For a taste to home and health, with words to warm the memory, turn to Oats! the food and the book.
Shirley Streshinsky and her daughter Maria are nationally recognized travel writers and connoisseurs of oats. Shirley has written for, among others, Glamour, Redbook, Travel & Leisure, and Conde Nast Traveler, and teaches a class in travel writing at the University of California Extension. She is the author of seven published books, three non-fiction and four novels. Maria is an associate editor at Motorland, the Northern California AAA magazine. This is their first collaborative book effort.
Toss oats with thyme, pepper, and sesame seeds. Dip chicken or fish in mixture until well coated. In heavy skillet, heat oil over moderately high heat. Fry until browned, about 4 minutes per side for chicken, 2 minutes for fish. Garnish with lemon wedges.
Before heading off on a long hike, go to the bulk food department of your favorite health food store or grocery store and pick a variety of your favorite things. Balance out sugar-heavy items to protein- and carbohydrate-heavy items. Stay away from small items because they fall to the bottom of the bag, and you end up with flaky, hard to grasp stuff.
On cold, crisp days, try the following (just throw handfuls together in a plastic bag):
Replace covered peanuts and M&Ms (anything that melts) with mini oatmeal-currant cookies, which you can get at most health food stores.
This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.
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This page modified September 2007
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