I’m a big fan of Engine 2. Way back when I first read Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, and before Rip Esselstyn was the poster man for plant strong eating he is today, I was also a fan of “The Esselstyn Breakfast” in the recipe section of that book. It’s the basic template for what is now famously known as “Rip’s Big Bowl.” I’ve long made my own simpler gluten-free version which doesn’t use any boxed cereals at all, with a rotating cast of fruity characters. Nothing could be simpler, or healthier. So I was a bit surprised to see that now you can buy the whole shebang in a box.
At the risk of sounding a little like Gilda Radner’s character Emily Litella on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, what’s all this about Rip’s big hole in his socks? It’s serial obscenity! And we are too lenient!! Emily Litella would rant on like this until Chevy Chase would tap her on the shoulder repeatedly to get her attention and correct her.No, he’d say. It’s an amenity. It’s convenient. And it’s breakfast cereal in a box.
Oh, she would say. Well. That’s different. And then the famous: “Never mind.”
But I heard it right the first time. And still can’t resist just the tiniest of rants. I know people are busy, but come on. How long does it take to throw raw oats in a bowl and cut up a banana and pour almond milk and cinnamon over them? I rest my old-fashioned case.
My current strategy is to mash up half a banana in the bottom of the bowl first. Any time of year, I like to put some raw buckwheat groats in with my rolled oats on top of the mashed banana. A sprinkle of cinnamon and cardamom. A little pineapple if I’ve got it. And this time of year fresh raspberries or strawberries from the garden. Last week I splurged on some fresh figs. A teaspoon of ground golden flax on the top. It just doesn’t get more simple, whole, or delicious. No serial socks, er, I mean cereal box needed. If you’d like this strategy in recipe form, here is it:
Maria’s Midsummer Pretty Big Bowl
1 half banana
1/4 cup raw buckwheat groats
3/4 cup gluten free rolled oats
big shake of ground cinnamon
big shake of ground cardamom
little shake of nutmeg
1/4 cup of fresh pineapple chunks (can also use canned)
heaping half cup or more of raspberries or strawberries or both
1/2 cup almond milk
optional: 1 heaping teaspoon of ground golden flax seed
also optional: two almonds, chopped and/or I fresh or dried fig, chopped
Mash the banana half in the bottom of your cereal bowl. Pour the busckwheat groats and rolled oats on top of it. Sprinkle with spices. Cut up the pineapple and put it in the bowl. Add the berries. Add the almnd milk and water. Stir up. Cover with a small plate and place in the fridge. Go do something else for a little while: check e-mail, wash your face, take a shower, water the garden. Take the bowl out of the fridge. Top with the heaping teaspoon of flax seed. Eat, chewing well. Enjoy each bite.
If you’re needing to be extra strict about losing weight, it might matter to you that the raw oats in a “big bowl” are slightly more calorie dense than cooked oatmeal. But it’s all good, and all good for you, whichever way you go. Although I wish Engine 2 all the best with its launch of healthy packaged foods, in my humble opinion, you don’t need a prepackaged box. You just need the bowl. I’m so convinced about the basic goodness of oats I even included a sonnet about them in my chapbook if a sparrow. (I originally wrote this sonnet for a poetry contest on the Engine 2 site. I got a little too big for my britches, I guess, and thought for sure I’d be a shoe-in, but in the end the judges caved, saying everybody’s poem was good, and picked a winner randomly. It wasn’t me.) No worries. “Old Fashioned Oats” will appear in old-fashioned print this Fall. And you get to read it now.
So here’s a plant-strong sneak preview from if a sparrow. Oatmeal, unboxed:
Old Fashioned Oats
Rolled whole in your trim, sedate suit, steamed gray
(uncooked I’d call you sandy, even tweed),
you grace my plain clear bowl with elegance.
Classic, never going out of style,
you deftly accommodate the passing blush
of peaches, the deep night sheen of berries.
Banana buttons are always at home
on your tasteful lapel. Understated,
you hold breakfast together. Even flax
knows you welcome its brash buttered accents.
With sophisticated ease, almond milk
presses a pale cheek to yours, like pearls on silk.
You make us all look like a million bucks.
Thanks, Rip, for the brilliant idea of the big bowl. To you and Engine 2, I raise my old-fashioned oat-filled spoon.