Convenience foods are undeniably attractive options when compared with traditional, time-consuming dishes, and so I can see how easy it is to get lured in by the seductive notion of easy eating. Just heat and go! No need to chop, measure, or use your brain at all! Salads come pre-washed and pre-assembled, since the task of compiling 6 or 7 vegetables and breaking them down is far too difficult for the average multitasking American. Sadly, the siren song of these effortless comestibles is far too strong to resist completely- After all, who wants to make pizza dough from scratch when you’re already pressed for time and so hungry that you’re liable to gnaw off a hunk of your own steering wheel as you drive home? Homemade is always infinitely better, but unless you do nothing but cook all day long, it isn’t always a realistic possibility.
On the other end of the spectrum are those pointless conveniences that are made for the laziest and most reluctant cooks, and stumbling upon a box of frozen, steel-cut oatmeal at Trader Joe’s I thought for sure I had another one to add to the list. Seriously, frozen oatmeal? How busy/cooking-incompetent/mentally impaired would you have to be to need pre-cooked, frozen oatmeal? Passing the freezer section with just a bit more fear for the future of home cooks, I was convinced that the contents of that box were made from the stuff of nightmares. This preconception lasted for weeks, and then months before I was tempted by that ever-present push for easy meal options, and actually stopped to investigate. Only 4 ingredients, no chemicals, plenty of fiber and protein, and no crazy additives in sight. Perhaps it wasn’t completely evil? Embarrassed to pick up such a product, I brought it sheepishly to the register, trying to nonchalantly slip it in with the other groceries so that it wouldn’t seem quite so ridiculous.
What a lazy, foolish consumer I felt like, bringing home pre-cooked oats. Trying to rationalize, it was true that these were much higher-quality than the instant stuff, and I really wouldn’t have the time to make steel-cut otherwise… And so into my freezer it went. Surprisingly, it didn’t say there long- The very next day, exhausted from a demanding exam, I was convinced that nothing on earth would recharge me in time for the next class. Grasping at straws, the oatmeal seemed like the best option, and so out it came. And my heart sunk, heavy with regret, upon seeing my snack…
It would be kind to describe the appearance as frozen cat food, or even a brick of baby food. Regret reared its ugly head, but trust me on this one: While it’s not a looker, it does get better from here. Freed from its plastic casing, the beige block went into a bowl and after being nuked for a solid 6 minutes (not 2-3 as the box so enthusiastically claims), a bowl of hot cereal never looked so inviting.
Too tired to fancy it up, I dug right in, and was impressed right off the start by its thick texture, much to the contrary of its soupy appearance. Perfectly thickened, the toothsome texture of the oats was simply spot-on, something I would have never imagined possible for a frozen product. Delightfully chewy, modestly sweetened to just the right degree, this is an oatmeal that everyone could find agreeable. Adding cinnamon really brought it up to a whole new level, as did a few fresh strawberries, but the beauty of this one is that because it’s so basic, you can add in anything you want! Dried fruits, spices, additional sweeteners- It’s all good, so go crazy! Most incredibly, after eating what might have otherwise seemed like a small portion, I was incredibly full. Satisfying my hunger and boosting my energy up like magic, this stuff has earned a permanent spot in my freezer.
Far exceeding my expectations, I suppose it goes to show that all convenience foods aren’t necessarily so bad… At least in this case, this is one breakfast I can definitely feel good about!