Keep your fancy oatmeal. I don't want your prehistoric grains, your quinoa, your Kamut©. I don't care what "multiple research studies" will have to say about the right cereal lowering the risk of heart disease in middle-aged men with a tendency towards corpulence. There is only one hot cereal for me, smooth and well-sweetened Cream of Wheat, made the proper way in a simmering pot on the stove.
I don't know why my mother chose Cream of Wheat as the favored hot cereal for us on those cold winter mornings that we had time for a sit-down breakfast. Was it a favorite in her native Vienna? Perhaps she picked up a taste for it during her short stay in England, or maybe she was just attracted to the bright red box with the picture of chef Rastus. But on those special mornings growing up, Linda and I would enjoy a steaming hot bowl of cereal without a Pennsylvania Quaker in sight.
Through the years my preferred breakfast has changed as frequently as the Bears have changed starting quarterbacks. Early on, half a box of Salerno Chocolate Chip cookies fed my morning sweet tooth. Then a school friend introduced me to Kellogg's marvelous innovation, Pop-Tarts. A pair of blueberry Pop-Tarts, untoasted and unfrosted, became my breakfast for most of high school.
Doesn't a muffin sound like a healthy start? But there wasn't much nutritional value in the overly sweet Sara Lee raisin muffins that kept me going for years. And nothing healthy in the delectable treats that drug reps used to supply on a daily basis to the Doctor's Lounge of my old hospital in Des Plaines. Eventually, it was recognized that those tasty 50¢ morsels were an illegal inducement (I was never sure what I, as a pathologist, was being induced to do) and the drug reps stopped making daily visits with their haul from the local bakery. I entered into my "cold cereal years."
Using my mad scientist background I experimented with preparing the ideal mix, eventually arriving at the combo of Nabisco Shredded Wheat, Shredded Wheat'n'Bran, and for a touch of sweetness, Quaker Oat Cinnamon Squares. I never add milk to cold cereal, so the mixture, which tasted like hay mixed with straw, was missing out on things like healthy fats and protein.
I moved on. For the last few years, breakfast has been whole grain toast slathered in natural peanut butter all covered with a mountain of blueberries. I get some fiber, some protein, and a nice wallop of free radicals. It gets me out of bed in the morning ready to face the long drive to the lab.
But some days the dairy aisle at Marianos or Whole Foods will call to me. I'll pick up a pint of fresh milk (the cow variety, not the soy or almond substitutes) and look forward to the following weekend when I can stand leisurely at the stove with my metal whisk and stir up some Cream of Wheat smoothness. It takes me a long way back, and it never disappoints. My mother would be proud.
Our Veteran's Day Blog is on the front page of today's Chicagotribune.com. In case you missed it here is the link: Trump at Gettysburg
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