Christopher Robin said:
"What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?"
"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best?" and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. And then he thought that being with Christopher Robin was a very good thing to do, and having Piglet near was a very friendly thing to have: and so, when he had thought it all out, he said, "What I like best in the whole world is Me and Piglet going to see You, and You saying 'What about a little something?' and Me saying,' Well, I shouldn't mind a little something, should you, Piglet,' and it being a hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing." ~ A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh CornerOur fondest memories of food are often inextricably bound with our memories of people, of having “a little something” in the company of friends and family. On of my fondest food memories is of my mother’s breakfasts, made at a time before microwave ovens and drive-through restaurants. Those bygone mornings somehow never felt rushed, although we had school and work and a full slate of tasks ahead of us. The farm was very quiet early in the morning, and in our small house I easily heard my mother opening the refrigerator, turning on the stove, cracking eggs, whisking batter. Before I opened my eyes, my nose was tickled with scents of pancakes and eggs, or waffles and bacon, or French toast and sausage. We always ate breakfast together, at least before my brothers and I started high school. Breakfast and supper were the bookends to our days, gathering us in together between times of being apart.
When I was very young, on Sundays I walked to my grandfather’s house for a late breakfast of cold, lumpy oatmeal sprinkled with sugar and laced with fresh-from-the-cow milk, a delicacy only the two of us appreciated and no one else in my family seems to remember. Afterward we played canasta or took a drive to the east pastures or we sat together and sang songs.
Almost none of my memories have to do with eating alone or of particular food apart from the person who made it. My grandmother’s “leftovers with the gravy on top,” as a cousin called it, would win no culinary awards, but the fact that she made it and served it in her tiny kitchen with her loving hands gave it four stars in our reviews.
Like the philosopher Pooh, we are wise to realize that our anticipation of food—and all good things—as well as our memories of it, are often even better than the thing itself. Just for a moment, imagine preparing a special dish for someone very special in your life. Think about choosing the recipe, buying the ingredients, making preparations, setting the table, sitting down together, sharing the food. The joy has already begun and will last much longer than the actual meal.
Our memories work in the same way. They last as long as we choose to hold on to them, and they are as sweet now as—maybe even sweeter than—when they occurred. All of this is to say that we needn’t worry too much about preparing fancy meals to show our love. Expensive groceries and gourmet techniques do not guarantee lasting memories. The secret ingredients are time, care, and togetherness.
This month I want to share a recipe that makes it easy to share your time and care with those you love. Package this yummy granola in big glass jars and tie with a pretty ribbon, perhaps with the recipe included.
It's time for a little something, don't you think?
Dried cranberries and chocolate chips dress up otherwise ordinary granola.
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup honey or pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 5 cups rolled oats (not the quick kind)
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, combine orange juice, honey or maple syrup, and vegetable oil. [addendum 11/23: warm the mixture if necessary to soften the honey.] Stir and set aside.
3. In a large baking pan, combine oats, sunflower seeds, chopped nuts, and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Pour in liquid mixture, and stir to coat ingredients evenly.
4. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes or so to prevent sticking. When finished, the granola is lightly browned.
5. Remove from oven. Cool completely before stirring in dried cranberries and chocolate chips.
Makes about 8 cups.