stoats and shillings over oatmeal ::::
It was one of the first trips we took as a family while living in Britain, one that took us north of the country in the winter. Our trek was one of many when we lived there, but one that I remember more clearly than the others. I don’t remember where we were visiting exactly, or what cathedrals or museums we wandered through. But I do remember the Bed and Breakfast lodging. It was an old farmhouse, dimly lit and moldy smelling, the blankets on the bed, heavy like lead. The cover of the murder mystery paperback on the nightstand of the room that I shared with my sister scarred me, the front cover displaying the back of a male head, crew cut, stabbed with a bloody knife. I couldn’t sleep with my back to a doorway for years.
Despite my difficulty sleeping that night, dreaming of knives in various bones of my body, I awoke with a new life, the morning light bright and white, reflecting off the thin layer of snow outside. In hindsight, it is the type of light one might see in a Martha Stewart magazine, that perfect ambient white, bright with smooth gray skies, without shadow. I flipped the murder mystery book over before I left the bedroom.
We headed downstairs as a family to the dining area. We had steaming tea waiting on the table. The next table over carried the scents of fried tomatoes and yolky eggs. Greasy sausage. Fried bread. Sticky porridge with full-cream milk. The owner of the B&B came over to greet us.
“GOOD MORNING, HALLO!” I was so startled that she was yelling, it jarred me from my observations of food choices around me.
“SHINING LIKE LITTLE SHILLINGS, THEY ARE!” She looked brightly at me and my siblings, all of us ruddy cheeked and startled. Other breakfasters glanced at our table. My dad also looked alarmed. Our host scurried off to bring us breakfast. I remember my dad giving me a look, as if to say, woah.
I stared out the window as I sat at the table with my parents and siblings, now eating our own pleasantly greasy breakfasts, spotting a small furry face at the windowsill. It was a weasel-like animal; my father later said it was a stoat. We immediately brought up our discovery to our host, pleased with ourselves for noticing some of the local wildlife. She looked worried. And fell speechless, thankfully. And hurried out of the room, evidently to tell her husband to check on the chicken coop. Hopefully not with a dagger like the one I saw on the nightstand book cover in the bedroom.
Perhaps the stoat crept over to the window at that moment, when it heard nothing, no shrill words, no verbal din, perhaps hoping that the usual source of the noise had left the premises, giving it a chance to case the building for a way in, a way to warmth and food. The voice that carried on from inside the farmhouse would scare anyone, anything, away. It’s surprising that there was any stoat at all.
So I remember that stoat, like a flash, over my current oatmeal these days, perhaps too often. We often have chaotic mornings, shrill voices over the breakfast table (scaring the cat only), no stoat sightings, and children shining like shillings. While Grub is the only kid taking a real shine to oatmeal these days, I expect Sky-Girl will be interested soon. Overnight oatmeal gives you a little less chaos in the morning, less worry at night for a ready-made breakfast in the morning. Shrill voices allowed, if younger than age 10. And I’m sure we’d love to see a stoat wiggle its way into our yard.
One year ago: gestational diabetes: how a food blogger is managing
Two years ago: coffee gelée
- 1 cup oatmeal
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch salt
- 1-2 diced fresh nectarines (or other fresh fruit or dried fruit)
- Mix all ingredients except fruit and refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, top with fruit and serve. You may also warm up the soaked oatmeal prior to eating, if desired.
- This recipe is meant to serve two people, but I end up eating the entire dish for one breakfast usually.