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Essay: Basic Ingredients

A friend is telling me what she eats for breakfast.

“Oatmeal,” she says, “with cranberries and walnuts and raisins and flax seeds.”

“Sounds healthy,” I say, thinking about my oatmeal which is just oatmeal. Deciding to
try something more nutritious, I buy cranberries and walnuts and raisins and flax seeds. I also buy some dates and cherries and sunflower seeds.

Now my oatmeal looks like a soupy granola bar, but I’m proud of my commitment to
good health. The trouble is, I don’t especially like how it tastes which is like soggy fruits
and nuts. I can’t even taste the oatmeal.

“It’s good for my body,” I tell myself but all that goodness doesn’t improve the flavor.
Then, one day when I’m in a hurry, I cook plain oatmeal and eat it with milk and brown
sugar.

“This is delicious!” I exclaim. I have a deep sense of wellbeing and remember my
grandmother’s kitchen table—the blue pitcher of milk, the yellow box of brown sugar.
And Nanna at the stove in her apron, stirring the oatmeal.

Perhaps memory is the basic ingredient that we overlook. I’m eating my oatmeal plain
again and feeling nourished.