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Ours is a hopeful society. Wishful, really: take a look at the claims on our cereal boxes. I know a fair amount about nutrition, and yet, every few months I participate in the escapist activity of reading cereal boxes and purchasing an all-new, whole-grain, high-fiber, high-protein, lowfat, extra-crunchy, satisfying, fruit-filled breakfast illusion. Usually it’s sweet and weird tasting, with some very fibrous fiber bits lurking amongst the puffs and crackles. Still, I’m a woman of words, and once I read that a cereal can solve all my problems, at some level I seem able to cling, in spite of repeated disappointments, to the notion that My Cereal is somewhere out there. You know, The One that will fill me up and start my day right every day, till death do us part.
Halfway through the latest cran-raspberry Kashi, I decided to get real. I’ve made cereal before, usually focusing on crunch, and I have become a guilty fan of granola, which I’m fairly certain is not going to help anyone to become like the slim, happy people of cereal advertising. But this time, I wanted a real, healthy, satisfying, well-rounded, whole-grain, high-fiber, lowfat, fruit-filled, cheap, easy-to-make, DIY breakfast.
I’m not going to say I’ve solved all my problems, or even made a breakfast cereal that my kid is willing to try (it lacks the simple geometry of cereals he favors), but I made a darn tasty, even exciting, muesli! I toasted the oats, for a less raw, more crunchy effect, along with coconut and chopped almonds, and a pinch of ground cardamom for a whiff of something exotic. Then I mixed in dried mango and date bits, poured the stuff in a jar, and voila! No soy protein powder, no chicory root, no tocopherols to preserve freshness, and no $5 and up price tag. I love this muesli on yogurt, with grated apple if I’m up for the task, or cut up fruit. It’s also nice left to sit in milk for a while, or even made with fresh-squeezed orange juice instead of yogurt.
Eating muesli for breakfast is my way of making peace with reality. It tastes good, it’s healthy, and best of all, I keep it in a big, clear glass jar without a single unreasonable claim printed on the outside. It feels good to really see into things as they are.
Zoe Singer is a freelance food writer and cookbook editor and co-author of The Flexitarian Table. Food Editor and blogger for The Faster Times, she tries not to eat for two now that her son is a toddler.