I’m feeling a bit down today, not just because it’s Monday, but because this morning I waved the 9yo off on his first residential school trip and he will be gone for FOUR WHOLE NIGHTS. He wasn’t too happy about going either, fat tears rolling down his cheeks contradicting the brave smile he put on as the coach pulled off.
I could well be in the minority here, but I hate it when I lose one of my kids to a school residential. I don’t handle the departure particularly well – when my eldest went on his first trip I don’t know who was sobbing the loudest. Then I spend the time when they are away, not constructively, but wandering around aimlessly not really achieving anything, with that kind of niggling anxiety you get when you think you have forgotten to do something really important. I don’t like the way it alters the dynamic of the house either; things become less noisy, less messy, less fun.
I find the homecoming part a bit anticlimactic too. Not in the same way as when they return from having spent a few days with their grandparents, when I know they will be antsy with sugar withdrawal and will have developed an over-inflated sense of self, which has me running down the path after grandma begging her to please take them back. No, the slightly deflated feeling I have when they return from a long school trip is different. You wait at the school gate in eager anticipation of that coach turning up, of them tumbling out full of smiles, stories and cuddles. But when they do eventually arrive, after the inevitable delay, they are catatonic with exhaustion, smell of dead mice and are, well, just a little bit changed. They have been away without you and survived. In the space of five days they have become a bit older, a bit wiser, less yours and more their own. You become needy, while they look on with new-found nonchalance.
Anyway, this morning I thought I was holding my shit together quite well, all things considered. That is until I got home, saw this and crumpled…
Let me introduce you to Kevin* (his official name is Malcolm but my 9yo didn’t think it suited him). Kevin is not so much the 9 yo’s best friend as his alter ego. He comes from Moontopia, a tiny planet attached to the moon by a bridge and he has a strange accent resembling that of an officer in a Japanese POW camp. He is the hero of many an iMovie, taking the lead role of OOKevin (read double O as in James Bond, not oo as in Carry On), including The Man with the Golden Moon, His Moonasties Secret Service and Never Say Ever Again.
Kevin usually makes me smile, the way he sits and stares and just is, but this morning he kind of broke my heart.
In need of a quick pick-me-up, I considered pouring myself a stiff drink, but it being only 9.30 a.m. thought better of it. What I really needed was something warm, nourishing and at the same time, nurturing, so I had a little cuddle with Kevin, then made this…
Oatmeal with yogurt, blueberries and maple syrup
Now I know none of you need a recipe to make porridge right, but this method, which I have stolen from Nigel Slater, has changed my view of the humble oat forever. It uses oatmeal rather than traditional porridge oats, which retains a welcome bite when cooked. It is cooked in water (bear with me) with a good pinch of salt (I said, bear with me).
In the TV programme I nicked this from, Nigel extols the virtues of contrasts in cooking – the pairing of hot with cold, sweet with savoury, crunchy with smooth and so on – and this breakfast is the perfect example of how good that can be. The salt brings out the nuttiness of the oats and the caramel sweetness of the maple, while the yogurt provides a luxurious note to what otherwise might seem a little puritanical. I also absolutely love the pairing of blueberries and maple syrup, a combination much greater than the sum of its parts. You could add some chopped almonds on top for extra texture, but this morning I barely wanted to chew let alone crunch.
The ratio I use is 1 part oats to 3 parts water, so decide on how big a bowlful you want and take it from there.
- 1/4 cup medium oatmeal (I use Rude Health)
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- good pinch of salt
- big dollop of full fat Greek yogurt (I like the Fage brand)
- handful of blueberries
- drizzle of maple syrup (Buckwud has a nice flavour)
- Put oats in a pan (preferably non stick – easier to wash up), add the water and salt, and stir to get rid of any clumps (I use a small whisk type thing to do this).
- Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the oats are quite thick.
- Pour oats into a bowl, dollop on the yogurt, throw in the berries and drizzle with syrup.
*Kevin (aka Malcolm) comes from a brilliant online shop called Ruby Ruth Dolls (www.rubyruthdolls.com) and he has lots of other friends which I think make the best presents ever; *spoiler alert* most of the younger members of my family will be getting one for Christmas. They take a couple of weeks but if you order now you might just make it in time. They are not cheap, but not silly either, ranging from £18-£40. And anyway, you can’t put a price on a smile like this…