Horse-Chow, or, You Eat What For Breakfast?
As long as I can remember, my mom would serve us kids oatmeal for breakfast. No matter how long it had taken us to get to the table, and how cold and gelatinous the oatmeal was, we were expected to eat it. (Sadly, there is rarely a stage in between molten-burn-your-tongue-off hot or stand-a-spoon-up-in-it cold.) Didn’t want it? Tough. There it was, faithful and true.
We got a kids cookbook from somewhere. I remember one recipe was Ants On A Log: celery sticks spread with peanut-butter and dotted with raisins. Another, I think, involved cutting the crusts off toast, which I have never understood, personally. Another recipe was called Baby Bear Oatmeal, which involved adding raisins, peanut-butter, and honey. I — at least — was a big fan of this variant.
Over the years I remember my mother also making muesli. Delicious grated apple, yogurt, nuts, and whatever else went into it. A great breakfast treat, but not a regular thing. She also made granola herself, baking it in the oven and filling vats with it which never lasted long.
Somehow, over the years, my family began to eat a particular breakfast cereal we called ‘horse-chow.’ I don’t know who called it that first (although why it’s called that is fairly easy to see).* To this day I eat a variation of it almost every morning. When I describe it to people they usually respond with a “you eat what?” or “you cook, it, right?” sort of response. Uh, yeah, and no. Here it is.
*Mama clued me in to the origins of the dish: from a cookbook by Helen Nearing back in the 80s.
The oats are the base. You can use quick oats (I used to only use these) or whole rolled oats. The more adventuresome could even try it with the Irish-style cut oats, but I can’t vouch for the chewability of this path. Don’t put too much oats in your bowl or they will overwhelm all the other delicious toppings and you won’t be as happy.
There are really at least three categories of toppings possible. I prefer to rotate so I don’t get bored with the same thing, and isn’t it good to vary your intake of nutrients so you’re not always getting vitamins and minerals from the same source? Right. (I love that rationale for not eating the same thing all the time.)
‘Nuff said. Chop it up, or not. Experiment. Mango can be delicious, as can ripe nectarine, or grated or finely chopped apple. Don’t put big chunks of a firmer fleshed fruit in or you will probably be just picking around them. I’m a big fan of frozen blueberries. Don’t forget dates! Mmm…
Almonds, sunflower seeds (don’t use too much or they overwhelm), peanuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews. Nuts will overwhelm if you have too much of any one type or just too much nuts in general, so go easy, but feel free to have a variety. They will provide the main texture sensation of the horse-chow.
I sometimes put a teensie pinch of cinnamon or ground ginger on my horse-chow. A spoonful of honey is great, as long as the other toppings aren’t already super sweet. A variation supplied by a friend (which I have never tried) involves adding a tiny bit of minute rice, which will add a crunch.
I prefer to put the raw milk from the farm in my horse-chow, but before I had access to that I would use organic whole milk, and at varying times in the past rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk — you name it. If I don’t have the raw milk now I will settle for juice or water (yes, water — it does the job).
Question of the day: Did/does your family have a unique or unusual traditional food which prompts the “you eat what?” response when you describe it?