Real Women Eat Real Oatmeal and What This Has In Common with The Diabelli Variations and Jane Fonda and Mark Bittman

Writer Process Note: I sat here initially to write about oatmeal but then saw myself pausing at the blinking cursor after the word “Oatmeal” in the title. I watched,pretty bemused I must tell you, to see the “and What This Has in Common with The Diabelli Variations and Jane Fonda and Mark Bittman” emerge.

Go with it, as we writers like to say. Follow the thread, the fiber optic that’s making its way through the swamp of words and ideas.

Caveat: If you’re one of those people who still spit and hiss and call Jane Fonda Hanoi Jane, you may want to skip the first few paragraphs. I hope you don’t–either hiss and spit or skip–because, er, time has passed? Jane was right, and we’re best buddies with the Vietnamese now.

For me, Jane Fonda is one heck of a role model. I mean at 73 she’s “just getting to the peak of her radiance” says a reviewer of her newest venture, a play called 33 Variations. She takes on serious stuff and does it with grace and style. In her latest role she is a musicologist with Lou Gehrig’s disease. She is bound and determined, even if it costs her precious time with her daughter, to figure out why Beethoven took a mediocre waltz and,  deaf and ill as he was in his last years, spent all his time writing 33 variations on it. Variations we play and lovingly call the Diabelli Variations.

Beethoven, #08

“With her trademark gym-bunny physique and coiffed magnificence, this Oscar-winning icon has the audience eating out of the palm of her hand the moment she makes her glamorous entrance. This is no critique of Fonda’s commitment, which is noble in its characteristic fierceness. But the diamond-cut bone structure of her face, the recognizable crackle in her well-born voice and those impossibly lithe legs draped in slacks as though in a couturier’s dream are patented scene stealers.”

(Charles McNulty LA Times

It’s the 33 variations that link oatmeal and Jane Fonda and Beethoven and Mark Bittman, but I just needed to say I would love to be described as lithe-legged and crackle-voiced  with a gym-bunny physique (gym? bunny? Well, maybe not the last) when I’m 73!

Now on to oatmeal which I’m sure Jane eats a lot of!  My cardiologist says Eat Oatmeal! And, because I have such respect for specialists, I eat oatmeal, but only lately have I looked forward to it. Look forward to it? I lunge for it. I primely lick my lips thinking about it. Heck, I serve it for supper with a side of salad! What do I do to make it so savory?

First off, I do not add a pat of butter and a pour of cream to each bowl. I was bowled over to read a recipe that called for these variations on some supposedly “Heart Healthy” site.

What I do: Cook it over a double boiler–this preserves the nutrients and gives me the illusion that I’m actually “preparing” a meal, which, when this meal is actually our supper, means a lot. Use water, not milk–I think it improves the texture? Don’t overcook. But do eat it hot.  And then I add the treats–Voila! The 33 Variations! Toasted almonds or walnuts or pecans.  Blueberries–the frozen wild berries are the best, and the story about the berry farmer who grows them using falcons instead of nets and poisons to keep off the berry-predators is grand. But any berries, be they dried, frozen, or fresh, are yummy. Dried pineapples or cherries.Grated apple. Sliced banana. Granola. Flaxseed. Muesli. Cinnamon. A sprinkle of wheat germ. A pour of maple syrup, grade b. Other variations: IF you do use milk, vary the type of milk. Chocolate milk may even–if you’ve got a goofy imagination–make you think you’re eating dessert. Add a spoonful of peanut butter. Crunchy is best. A dollop of some type of jam or jelly. Yogurt.

Beethoven, Diabelli Variations, Var. 33
Image via Wikipedia

Am I at 33 yet? Yes! And more.

Oops. Almost forgot the Mark Bittman part of this entry. Recently Mr. Bittman bewailed McDonald’s and how they’ve managed to screw up oatmeal. Oatmeal is not an ingredient says Bittman. It’s the dish, darn it!  So, if you learn by juxtaposing the good with the bad, make my 33 variations on oatmeal and then buy yourself a McDonald’s Oatmeal Cup. As Mark Bittman says it’s how you make oatmeal…WRONG

Yay for Jane. And Ludwig! And Mark Bittman! And that Quaker guy on my oatmeal cannister!