Every other week, we bring you Nicholas Day—on cooking for children, and with children, and despite children. Also, occasionally, on top of. Today: Rethink your relationship with mush.
You know what’s overrated? Crispy.
You know what’s underrated? Mush.
Well, maybe not underrated by you. Maybe you think mush deserves its Rotten Tomatoes rating. But look at you! You are an adult-sized, literate individual with excellent taste in reading material. You are not the target audience. The target audience has to be convinced not to eat its dinner off the floor. I am not saying you don’t sometimes eat your dinner off the floor. But you know you’re not supposed to.
Every other week this column explains, slowly and without any 10-dollar words, that how adults consume food is not that different from how children consume food. (The anatomy—spoiler alert—is almost identical.) But this week is an exception to the rule. Because sometimes how children eat really is different from how adults eat.
Which is a long way of saying that you may not like mush. But your rent-free boarders may.
Adults look at mush and see a texture that fails to be something better—they see a low-rent, flunked-out version of creamy. Mush is the texture that gave up trying and moved back into its parents’ basement. Children, on the other hand, tend to accept mush for what it is. It has yet to be ruined by not being something else.
And mush, as Emily Vikre has wisely noted, has a deep, primal affiliation with childhood: “It is the best attributes of mashed potatoes and pudding and cuddly bunny rabbits all rolled into one. It is ‘goodnight mush’ at the end of Goodnight Moon.”
Which brings us to muesli.
Muesli is a dish, of course, but these days it seems to be mostly a concept. And the concept has been stretched until it contains virtually everything you can do to grains at breakfast, which means that a lot of muesli recipes today look mostly like fancy granola or fancy oatmeal.
But muesli has never been a glamorous dish. Its original version was soaked overnight, and when you soak oats overnight, you get, well, mush. I soak ours in milk and I like it a lot. But my children like it even more, possibly because it tastes a little like raw dough, which my children would crawl across a desert for.
Made the night before, tossed with fresh fruit and nuts in the morning, it is a perfect solution to the problem of a decent weekday breakfast. It’s bringing mush back.
Serves 2, well
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup milk
1/4 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1 apple, grated or roughly chopped
1 peach or nectarine, roughly chopped
1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped
More: A week’s worth of whole grain recipes with Kim Boyce.