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Friday, 11 December 2009

Pop Pop and the Oatmeal

By Nancy Leitz

When our children were young, they ate a lot of oatmeal. The commercials on television constantly advised us that children needed a stick-to-their-ribs breakfast, so oatmeal was just the ticket. They all loved it, especially Jerry.

I didn't use that "instant" oatmeal. Heaven forbid. Nothing but the "start from scratch" stuff was good enough for our kids. So, I would buy Mother's Oats in the big round, red and blue box with the lovely mother and her son pictured on the front.

One thing about buying Mother's Oats was unusual and I want to mention it because I think the very same thing is happening today in our supermarkets. It is this: You can find all sorts of "impulse" items at eye level on your local store shelves. You see smoked oysters in a jar, brie cheese with a recipe attached for making brie membrillo and Asian pear crostini and long stemmed Luxardo Gourmet maraschino cherries for your cocktails. For any of these it is just a matter of extending your hand toward the shelf and the item will practically jump into your cart.

But, you want Mother's Oats? Bottom shelf, all the way in the back. You have to kneel down on the floor in front of the shelf, push aside the Post Baled Hay (I mean shredded wheat) and reach as far as your arm will go and maybe, just maybe, there will be a box of Oats there. True?

But to get back to the way I prepared those Mother's Oats for the kids.

I would put the water and salt (not too much) in the saucepan and wait for it to boil. Then I would add the Mother's oats and begin to stir - and stir - and stir. I stirred that oatmeal until every single grain was as fine as silk.

If I felt a single clump I would press it against the side of the pan and smooth it all out. By the time it was ready for putting into bowls, it was a delight to behold. Ah! Creamy white with brown flecks of oats throughout. Then into the bowls it would go and the warmed milk was just waiting to be added (whole milk - not 2% or 1% or watery skim milk). Delicious!

One September, Roy and I decided to drive to California. We expected to be on the road for a few weeks and my Mother and Dad (Mom Mom and Pop Pop McGarvey) volunteered to live in our house with the children while we were gone.

The kids were crazy about Mom Mom and Pop Pop and the feelings were very mutual. My parents loved to stay with the kids because they enjoyed each others' company so much. So we left on our trip and called every night (no cell phones in those days) from wherever we were. Everything was usually fine at home and we had no worries.

When we got home after three weeks, everybody was happy to see us and we were thrilled to see them, too. I think Mom Mom and Pop Pop were ready to go home to their quiet apartment, but they pretended that they were sad to go. Well, they would miss the kids and the kids would wish they were still at our house but it was time for things to get back to normal.

The first morning after they had left, we got up and it was time for me to make the oatmeal. Jerry watched as I took the red and blue box from the shelf and I could see that he wanted to say something, but was hesitating.

When the water had boiled and it was time to put the oatmeal in the saucepan, Jerry cleared his throat and after much hemming and hawing finally said, "Mom, do you think you could ask Pop Pop how he makes the oatmeal? It's really good the way he makes it."

I was surprised and said, "Sure, Jerry, I'll ask Pop Pop but what is so special about the way he makes it?"

The poor kid didn't want to hurt my feelings but he really wanted me to know about my Dad's oatmeal, so he very quietly said, "His oatmeal has these great big lumps in it and they really taste GOOD! Do you think you could try to make it with big lumps in it, too?"

From that day on, just like 007's martini, the oatmeal was shaken not stirred.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Priceless snapshot of family for sure..my sons were both Maypo boys, one still is..correct on the supermarkets & their placement..hope these hard times will bring what we all buy regularly back to eye level..actually, I notice my Key Food has lots more oatmeals on hand..On family history note..my kids (3) always remember going to Vt and having corn pancakes for just about every meal they ate there..why didn't they ever have them before from their 7/6/5 year old little voices on way home..well, maybe because you all have shunned corn since forever..ask Grandma Follett to show you how to make 'em Mom from the back of the volkswagen bus..their father chuckled & told about torturing his mother after staying with another Grandmother in Ohio years before..family traditions are strange..Mary Follett

This reminds me of the way my cousins and I used to love to eat fried chicken at Grandma's house because her gravy was lumpy!

that was nice to read this blog that was nicely written ... i love to read this type of stuff...

Your story is a perfect read this morning in a very cold and windy northeast. Nothing warms the heart more than a loving family and hot oatmeal. By the way, I, too, like a few lumps in mine.

I love it when the grandchildren want their parents to make something the way I make it. We use instant oatmeal and I add sugar, margarine and milk to each bowl. Don't spill the beans because it is labeled an old secret family recipe! LOL

Priceless memories. I remember the fried apple pies my grandmother used to make for us kids. It was a treat we only got a grandma's house!


My kids used to like Maypo,too. Do you remember the cute jingle they used to sing in their TV commercials? I was driven to distraction listening to four kids singing that ditty.


My mother used to make lumpy gravy,too, as part of her U.S.Steel dinner, which consisted of stewed chicken,rice,lumpy gravy,and mashed potatoes (Also lumpy)

My sister and I had to do the dishes and when we went into the kitchen we saw that Mom had used EVERY pot and pan in her collection to make her dinner so the place was so full of stainless and aluminum that we said it looked like U.S.Steel.


Thanks for reading my story and for your nice comment. I appreciate it.

Claire Jean,

After Jerry brought the lumps to our attention, we all started to enjoy the lumps,too. You are right that today is a great day for some Mother's Oats. Cold and windy is just the day for a stick to the ribs breakfast..

Granny Annie,

An old family recipe,eh? Like when I told my kids that Gorton's Cod Fish cakes were chicken? Like that?

Mammy made a great big pot of porridge every morning with milk. She didn't like lumps, so ours was the 'without' variety. I of course never eat it due to my non tolerance for dairy products.

I love your family stories Nancy, and feel I am right there with you. Keep them coming!

You never disappoint, Nancy. I can always count on a laugh when I read your stories. Lumpy oatmeal? I thought it was supposed to be that way. ;-)


You old meanie! Did you not allow your kids to sprinkle sugar on top of their oatmeal? Or perhaps Mother's Oats was already sweetened?

I love my porridge made with large organic oat flakes but it HAS TO HAVE a little bit of brown sugar on top, to give it a crunch!

Today's kids tend to eat cereal that goes SNAP, CRACKLE AND POP!

Hi Dani,

Fried Apple Pie! What a treat..It's always great to have a Granny who makes you special things.

I have a Grandson who told his Mom that he likes to come to my house because when I fix his waffles I put butter in every hole.

Hello GM,
I think from reading your comments you must have had the best Mammy in the World...And now YOU are the best Mammy in the World to Elly.

No, Darlene, Oatmeal was not supposed to be that way. But according to Jerry it wouldn't have tasted half a delicious without the lumps.

Hi Steph,

Yes, they were allowed to sprinkle a little sugar on the oatmeal but you are right, after Frosted flakes came on the scene they weren't so keen on oatmeal anymore...And,yes, they loved Snap,Crackle and Pop,too!

I worked for a chef once (Escoffier-trained) who would set aside a few potatoes, then mash the rest. He cut the "set aside" potatoes into small dice and added them to the mashed ones. When I asked why, he said, "So people know I'm using real potatoes."

PS: I was raised in Alaska and have never heard of Mother's Oats. It was always Quaker oats here. And Cream of Wheat. Loved the lumps in Cream of Wheat.

Who would have thought oatmeal would have generated so much of a response? I know it wasn't oatmeal. It was the memories and the relationships with grands.

It put a lump in my throat too. Thanks!

Isn't that always the way? I prided myself for YEARS on my carefully planned, wholesome and balanced meals when my kids were little. And when I'd go away on a weekend trip and the kids would be home with Dad, I'd hear about how WONDERFUL dinners were: Kraft mac-n-cheese, hotdogs, Chef Boyardee pizza from a mix, fried egg sandwiches in front of the TV...! Sigh. Damn brats. LOL.


That chef was a very clever fellow.I wonder if that's the effect my Mom was going for with her U.S.Steel dinner.All lumps with a bit of potatoes or gravy thrown in for good measure.

I think Mother's Oats and Quaker Oats are really the same thing...

Hi Herm,

I am so glad you liked my oatmeal story.

You are so right,it wasn't the oatmeal at all that made the story appealing, it was the fond memories of days gone by.


Were we separated at birth? Did we grow up with the same parents?

Roy and I went up to the Poconos one weekend and the kids told us that Pop Pop had made the best dinner. I asked what they had had and they all shouted,"Pretzel Sticks." Mom Mom would get so angry because she would make one of her wonderful dinners and the kids would never mention it.

Nancy, I love your stories and this is no exception. My mom hardly ever made me oatmeal as a child, but a neighbor did, every time I spent the night with her daughter. She made oatmeal just the way you did, but hers had a few lumps too. I still remember the way hers tasted (I loved it) and I have never had oatmeal like that since then!


Come stay with me and I will fix you oatmeal;just the way you like it,with or without lumps. BUT, it will be up to you to crawl down the aisle at the Supermarket and reach way into that bottom shelf,throw aside the Baled Hay,and get that big round box of Oatmeal....

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