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Sunday 23 March 2008

Cooking and Eating for Postgrads: Oatmeal (aka Porridge)

Breakfast: the most expensive important meal of the day. Oatmeal is an economical and hearty way to eat in the morning.



  • small pan
  • measuring cup
  • spoon
  • knife (optional)

Food Items

  • Oats
  • Raisins (optional)
  • Apple or Pear (optional)
  • Banana (optional)
  • Cinnamon (optional)
  • Soy Milk (optional)


Put 0.1 L of oats in a pan with 0.3 L of water. Put it on low heat. Add in a small handful of raisins. Stir some. Cut up an apple or pear into small pieces and add them. Stir some. Cut a banana into slices and add them. Stir some. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top. Stir occasionally. When it looks done, it is. Serve with soy milk

You've just gotten

The oats are a warm and filling way to start the cold day! And full of fibre. The three fruits have given you three of your five a day (and it's not even lunch time yet!). The banana has potassium. The soy milk has protein. And if you've been wise in your soy purchase, it also has calcium and b12.


Breakfast cereals are expensive because they're fortified. Because most people have a crap diet and don't take any vitamins, all of the stuff they're presumed to be missing is added to cereal. This means that you're not only paying for the food in it, the colorful packaging, the catchy marketing campaign, the secret toy inside and the artificial flavors, you're also paying for it to be your daily multi. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the price per gram of cold breakfast cereal is not good.

However, there are some vitamins that are difficult or impossible to get from plant sources only. Including B12, which is necessary for survival. It's found in spirulina and marmite, but if you're vegetarian or vegan, you're going to need to get more than you can from those sources (it's in milk, but not in eggs). This means you can either take supplements or drink fortified soy milk. Check the label of the soy milk before you buy it. Mine gives me my daily allowance of B12 in about the same amount I use on coffee and oatmeal. It also is fortified with calcium, which you need and which, despite what you make have heard, is hard to get from milk.

Ok, there's a lot of stuff going around about how soy is secretly poison or whatever. Firstly, we're not talking about living off of nothing but soy, we're talking about one serving of soy milk. Second, I'm not familiar with all the claims against soy, but I do know the ones people say about estrogen: soy will make you girly!!. Oh my god, vegetarians really are effeminate!!

I know, estrogen is so alarming! Can you believe it, your own body even makes it! What a traitor! Ok, small amounts of plant based estrogen aren't bad for you. It's in a lot of foods. Unless you go crazy with the soy, this isn't going to be a problem. Second, you actually need some estrogen in your body in order for your brain to function properly. No estrogen = no brains. Make of that what you will.

Anyway, we're talking about one serving of soy milk here, so this is not really an issue, but I want to add that I think the hysteria behind soy estrogens has a lot to do with homophobia, sexism, and gender normativity more than it has anything to do with a valid health concern. Soy beans do not make you gay. Sheesh.

Carbon Footprint

I made some claims earlier about only eating local produce. No, they don't grow bananas in England. I've started making an exception for bananas because I really like them and they're a really good source of potassium, which prevents things like foot cramps. I get the fair trade bananas. I was listening to the Democracy Now podcast a few weeks ago and heard an advocate of banana growers talking about fair trade. Banana growers need to survive , and if I buy fair trade, then that helps them do so.

Hopefully that doesn't make me a hypocrite to go on to say that many breakfast cereals have a terrible carbon footprint. Ingredients from all over the world come together at one factory very far away from where you live and then are shipped back to you. Dried fruit from Turkey goes to North America, goes back to England. However, the main reason I eat oatmeal is because it's cheap and warming and makes my mornings brighter.

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