Over Easy: Oats could be the answer

Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)


For the Valley News

Published: 02-29-2024 9:01 PM

Modified: 03-01-2024 5:49 PM

This inflation thing has gone too far. Not only are supermarkets working toward a $5 minimum for essentials such as cookies, the cost of something near and dear to my heart is inching ever higher.

I refer to often overlooked old-fashioned oats. They used to be inexpensive (aka cheap). Recently I almost gasped when I encountered a 42-ounce cardboard tube of Quaker Oats priced at $6.49. Believe it or not, another store listed the aforementioned oats at $8.99, yes, a penny less than $9. Be still my wallet.

In my mind, they should cost a couple of bucks. I suppose they did not long ago. I mean, they are just one ingredient: oats. No sugar, no red dye, no BHT to make them last forever. I’ll put it plainly: An oat is what it is.

I cope by turning to store brands. The 42-ounce generics recently ranged from a tolerable $3.89 to a pricey $5.39. There are a lot of theories about inflation, but I suspect producers are raising prices for a very technical reason: because they can.

Consumers can fight back by avoiding inflated items. The list of things I haven’t bought recently is vast: new home, overpriced; new car, overpriced; new yacht, overpriced; Trump’s $399 Golden Sneakers, overpriced and yikes!

But, like they say, you gotta eat. And I like oats. I’m a fan because they help reduce cholesterol, and in the era of processed food, fewer ingredients means fewer things to go wrong. I pour soy or almond milk over them, toss on frozen cherries and blueberries, maybe some raisins. I microwave for three minutes, and after carrying the heated bowl to the counter (“oww, oww”), I add a spoonful of all-natural peanut butter to appease the protein gods. Sometimes a smattering of flaxseed or wheat bran acts as digestive rocket fuel.

I consume this six or seven days a week without developing malaise or ennui. It has fiber galore, natural sweetness, antioxidants and all sorts of healthy whatnot. Next to the amiable Quaker on the leading brand are the words “LASTING ENERGY,’’ but that’s aspirational.

Throughout history, oats have not received the respect they deserve. I don’t think it’s known what Neanderthals thought of them, but I bet they were easy to please. Around 2,000 years ago Pliny the Elder, Roman historian, naturalist and man-about-everything, wrote that they are “a diseased form of wheat.” Yeah, well, I bet the vandals who sacked Rome didn’t turn up their noses at them.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

I don’t want to overstate the effects of oats, although sometimes I finish a bowl and go out and run a 4-minute mile and then lift massive boulders. If that seems preposterous, you need to try oats. I don’t know if I’m a better person for eating them, but oats make you humble, so I might be the last to know.

I came across a nicely done homage online in the fall 2023 issue of Washington State Magazine. It began, “Oats are not the sexiest ingredient …” No argument here. They are barely PG-13.

Even though they are vital for apple crisp and oat-and-raisin (or, even better, oat-and-chocolate chip) cookies, the U.S. has sort of lost interest in oat production. It lags far behind the European Union, Russia, Canada, Brazil and the United Kingdom, which for the moment still includes Scotland, where oats have been huge since the Middle Ages. I for one would favor an Oats for America initiative from the Biden administration. I’d go for price controls, too. A little socialism in the cause of breakfast is not too extreme.

Among its many maladies, America suffers from too much yin where there ought to be yang. We are imbalanced. Liberals overdose on avocado toast and MSNBC. MAGAs light their inner fires with Hot Pockets and Fox News.

Middle-of-the-road oatmeal could soothe the national psyche. (Avoid the little packages with added sugars or instant oats, which are linked with impatience.) Real oats calm the stomach and settle the mind. They satisfy the gut for hours, are probably good for the microbiome and may promote empathy. We’re all less riled up with a full and happy belly.

As for the candidates, Joe Biden may take a bucket full of vitamins and minerals daily to keep going and might soon need old-time remedies like Geritol and Carter’s Little Liver Pills. Donald Trump rolls out of bed and downs a cheeseburger and a Diet Coke. Oatmeal could only help.

Really, the mighty oat could be the answer to what ails us all. Well, that and some other stuff, but those are off the table until another day.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.