If there's one thing Texas will teach you fast, it's that you should never trust the weather. A searing hot summer might be followed by a smooth and temperate winter, or it could be followed by polar vortex that lasts for months on end. The swings are even more disorientating from one day to the next. I'm writing this post about piping hot oatmeal to soothe your cold, weathered soul because it's 29 degrees outside, but by the time my work gets published it could be 77. That's OK, though. We'll have another cold snap or two before this winter comes to and end and when it does, you'll be ready with some of the best oatmeal you have ever tasted.
There is no better way to start a chilly morning than with a hot bowl of oatmeal cradled in your palms, but it's not hard to understand why the breakfast eaters don't enjoy it more often. According to the countless breakfasts our parents conjured from cardboard tubes and paper packets, oatmeal is consistently slimy, paste-like, flavorless substance. It's dull, heavy and unsatisfying. It eats like prison food.[jump]
You should know, however, that what you were eating wasn't real oatmeal at all. The instant cereal you so often saw resurrected with water and a microwave oven was the product of a lengthy process that started with real oats but ends in processed goop. Oats destined for instant breakfasts are rolled, steamed, cut, cooked and then dried until almost no oatmeal flavor remains. They cook in just a few minutes, but the results are so bland most of us wouldn't touch without loads of brown sugar, maple syrup dried fruits and even more sugar.
Steel cut oatmeal (the real stuff, often called Irish oatmeal) is only dried and cut by comparison, and sometimes lightly toasted to enrich its natural flavor. It takes longer to cook and you'll have to watch and stir it, but the nutty flavor and the substantial, chewy texture you get out of carefully cooked steel cut oats is worth the trouble. Get used to steel cut oatmeal, and you'll have a hard time going back to the porridge of your youth.
Once you master the cooking process, (it only takes a try or two) you can start taking your breakfasts into the stratosphere with creative additions. These are a few classics, but don't stop here.