Have you ever noticed that the real key to comfort food is having someone else make it for you? That and the food is weird. Dang weird to anyone outside of those making it and those being comforted by it.
My mom used to make lumpy malt-o-meal for breakfast. She was a harried chef. Most mornings, it was fend-for-yourself in our house of 7 kids and 2 adults, one of whom caught the bus for work around 4 a.m. everyday if I recall correctly. (The “if I recall correctly” is code for, “I’m exaggerating now.”)
Let’s be real. We didn’t eat breakfast at my house. But when we did, my mom’s philosophy seemed to be: make it as gross as possible so it will feed them all. Okay, okay. She was a bit of a health nut so it might have been that her philosophy was: feed my family healthy food. But when you are a kid, there is really no distinction between gross and healthy.
Her other breakfast go-to’s were Grape-nuts, Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, and Cracked Wheat which was made, if I recall correctly, by putting wheat and water in a crock pot until the wheat resembled a pregnant, soft version of itself. It tasted as good as it sounds. To those staples, she added … nothing. NO sugar, no berries, no nothing, sometimes, oftentimes, not even milk. Naked mush. Plain was best.
You might not be surprised to hear that there were usually leftovers of that stuff every morning. And, if you lived at my house, you knew what that meant! My mom would use the leftovers in a spectacular muffin recipe that she is still perfecting today. The grandkids help her make muffins every time they are at her house. And they bring them home. To me.
My mom’s muffins recipe ingredients, if I recall correctly:
- leftover mushy stuff
- no sugar or honey or agave or sweeter of any kind
- wheat germ
- raisins (if you’re lucky!)
- wheat flour
But I digress. The point is. It turns out. I love the malt-o-meal. I mean, I really, really love it. It is warm and it makes me feel like I am six-years-old and getting rocked in the rocking chair while I sniffle. And I love it because I grew up and figured out I could add brown sugar! (Don’t tell my mom that part. In fact, maybe it’s best if you don’t mention this post to her at all.)
But MY malt-o-meal has a fatal flaw. I can’t seem to make it lumpy! I have asked my mom how she did it and she just rolls her eyes at me. I have tried cooking it on the stove top like a pioneer. I have tried not measuring stuff so the meal to water ratio could be wonky. I have tried being really distracted while cooking. But to no avail! I can’t replicate it.
So I figure, it must not be the lumps that I crave. It must be the comfort part of this comfort food that I miss. It’s the symbolism of the food that I can’t get right for myself. Because I’m trying really hard and it’s not possible. I can’t replicate being seen that way, having someone watching out for me, noticing when I need a rocking chair and something warm to eat.
It’s not that I’m not cared for. I am! I so am! But there is just something about the way a mom cares. Cares, and then makes you weird, weird food. That’s comfort food and that’s why you can’t make it for yourself.
I wonder which of my weird food experiments will become the symbol of my love for my children?