An Ode to Road Oatmeal

Gentle Readers, it is no secret that The Practical Cook is a big fan of cereal. I eat it, I Tweet it, I make videos about it. Rarely are there fewer than 10 types of it in my pantry. I cook with it (currently, I’m trying to think of the top 5 uses for the irritating bits of cereal that collect in the bottom of the bag). But I digress. On the road, it is very difficult to get my cereal on.

Steel-Cut Oatmeal in a Bathtub-Sized Bowl

Steel-Cut Oatmeal in a Bathtub-Sized Bowl

The choices are often dicey, the milk is often long-standing, and frankly, I’m morally opposed to paying $5 for a small bowl of Tony the Tiger. So when I travel, as a compensatory move for the way I’m eating the rest of the day (because remember, I got smacked hard with the genetic cholesterol stick), I choose oatmeal.

Oatmeal with Strawberries at Grand Luxe Cafe

Oatmeal with Strawberries at Grand Luxe Cafe

Though it may go for a pretty penny in Vegas (I thought Virtually Cooking was kidding about $20 oatmeal, he was not), at least someone cooked it, and it’s generally steel-cut at that premium. And I feel good about eating it. The toppings are usually interesting and varied, and I go for skim milk when it’s an option.

Oatmeal Toppings at Grand Luxe Cafe: Golden Raisins, Brown Sugar, Milk, Bananas

Oatmeal Toppings at Grand Luxe Cafe: Golden Raisins, Brown Sugar, Milk, Bananas

But wait a second. Check out the above picture more closely. I did my usual dollop of milk, sprinkle of sugar, and big dose of raisins, then I realized, there’s enough brown sugar there to make chocolate chip cookies!! Seriously, I love a ramekin as much as the next person (quite possibly more, owning as many as I do), but you don’t have to fill it up. It’s hard to see the scale here, but it’s A LOT of brown sugar.

Another Day, Another Bowl of Oatmeal

Another Day, Another Bowl of Oatmeal

So here’s my advice, as you navigate food choices while traveling: question the portions you receive. I know Mark Bittman has written extensively about McDonald’s Oatmeal (sample of the back and forth here), and frankly, I think he’s got a point. I hate when food sounds healthy and isn’t. I like to eat my calories full on and with complete joy. Bring me a Snickers, but don’t call it oatmeal.

In the end, I’ve enjoyed my road oatmeal above most of my other breakfast options in a conference/convention setting, so I keep ordering it. I’ll wait to order the chilaquiles in Texas, and the avocado omelet in California. NYC, I’ll see you for corned beef hash and bagels. And NC, grits and biscuits please. (Pancakes and waffles will have to wait for late-night or home, lest I sugar crash.)

What do you eat for breakfast when you’re on the road? Have you tried the McDonald’s Oatmeal? The comment box awaits, post today. Or Tweet!

Question, query, compliment? They’re all accepted by emailing me at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, end of season okra: Buttermilk Okra, Indian Style.



Filed under Kitchen Philosophy, On the Table

2 responses to “An Ode to Road Oatmeal

  1. Virtually Cooking

    Great post! My summary of Vegas oatmeal: Best option on the strip: Mandarin Oriental. Worst: Grand Luxe – ugh did not enjoy at all, needed loads of toppings

    • The Practical Cook

      I agree with your assessment. At Mandarin Oriental, they practically chew it for you. And having witnessed your “special request” for toppings, they don’t even flinch when such requests are made. 🙂

      Plus, Gentle Readers, Grand Luxe Cafe is owned by the Cheesecake Factory, which is notorious for making the wrong side of “Eat This, Not That.” They’ve “won” in practically every category, so buyer beware.

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