Upping my Competence

I realize that this link is hopelessly outdated in internet years, but I wanted to share this quickie from The Hairpin about how to make your own Muesli. After reading this, don’t you just want to make a bigass bowl of Muesli? Don’t you love the idea of adding a cup of shredded coconut to something? Do you even eat Muesli?

I don’t. I mean, I have, but it’s not something I routinely eat. Buuuuuut, as is the case with most comestibles, Muesli plays a small but critical role in my food history.

Late in my senior year of college, I decided to “get healthier.” I’d had a rocky year: I’d suffered a massive, drunk-inducing breakup; I’d undertaken a senior honors project, which sucked up endless time; and I’d had a falling out with my roommies — a fight that culminated in my moving out two months before graduation (yowch).

Needless to say, my eating habits throughout this stretch were deplorable. I subsisted on sugar cereal, Blue Moon, taffy, and sleeves of chocolate donettes purchased from the corner store, which was, conveniently, a block from  my new residence. Not surprisingly, I finally had to grapple with the [post]-Freshman 15. (Again, yowch.)

At this point in my life, “getting healthier” was a daunting chore. I smoked, and I mean really smoked; at my worst, I went through more than a pack a day. I drank. I was on the college meal plan, so I had unlimited access to highly processed carbs. And, aside from the walking I did, I avoided exercise. Where, then, did I start with my “Fit Back Into My Jeans Plan?”

With breakfast. Breakfast was the smallest and first step. Changing my morning eating habits seemed like the gentlest possible way to ease myself into a new, brutally austere, Danish-free existence.

I remember driving to Hy-Vee and vowing only to purchase “healthy” foods. Gone were the days of semi-instant cinnamon roles, of Red Baron frozen pizzas eaten during Law & Order marathons! I walked longingly through the aisle of chips and dips — Tostitos, my old friends, mourned my rebuffs — and filled my basket with Splenda-sweetened yogurts.

In the cereal aisle, I turned a blind eye to Lucky Charms (no small feat for this mallow-lover). Instead, I chose the healthiest cereal I could find: Muesli. “This will get me on track,” I remember thinking. Muesli and yogurt: that was what the track girls ate, right?

For the next few weeks, I began my days with breakfasts of Muesli and skim milk, eaten from a Spanish-patterned mug I got for a quarter at the Goodwill. Between bouts of thesis writing, I’d go to the school’s new fitness center and lounge on an elliptical for half an hour, puzzling at the Resident Overexerciser, who was at the gym whenever I was. Evenings, when I’d maxed out on writing, I’d lay in my lofted bed, sipping a cool beer, listening to the traffic. Beer, somehow, was on the diet plan.

Weeks before graduation, a massive thunderstorm flooded the street in front of my dorm. Intuitively, I rolled my pants, donned flip-flops, and headed out into the tapering drizzle. A few other people had the same idea, and together we waded barefoot into the pool that spanned South Street. When I think of that storm, I think of my minifridge, the acid-washed Diesel jeans I loved to death, a certain dude, and Muesli.

What a strange time in my life; never before or since have I spent so much time alone — never have I needed to. Muesli has become a food to be eaten in solitude, from a mug, with a modest pour of milk.

Saturday morning, I made Muesli following the directions in the article. I’d bought a bag of Bob’s oats, mixed nuts, and dried mango; I had on hand raisins and shredded coconut. Beyond the recommended ingredients, I added Ceylon cinnamon and finely chopped chocolate (just a little bit!). Immediately after mixing it, I tried my homemade Muesli, and I like it. I really like it. Store-bought Muesli tastes like paper, but this tastes like real-ass cereal.

Reentering the realm of Muesli is a strange step for me to take, especially now, five years after I graduated from college. My extremely narrow experience with the food has linked it inextricably and precisely to a three-month span in my life — not an altogether pleasant span. Dipping into the Muesli mug — and discovering that I do indeed like the cereal — is bittersweet, signifying the departure from who I was half a decade ago, emphasizing the ways in which my tastes have since changed.

Reincorporating nostalgic foods into one’s diet brings the attendant danger of redefining the significance of those foods; the fear of overwriting food memories has prevented me, on several occasions, from eating or drinking certain things. This is faulty logic, I realize: no food should act as a tomb. Some foods can’t transcend their nostalgic meanings, no matter how sharply they reinvent themselves, and Muesli is one such food. The Muesli I made this weekend bears little resemblance to the pulpy junk I ate senior year, which is a relic of a bygone era. Then again, all foods — even a food’s better selves — can become relics.


5 responses to “Upping my Competence

  1. when is beer NOT on a diet plan?

  2. Beer is on all of my diet plans!

    On which topic: why am I not America’s Next Health Guru?

  3. Pingback: Restaurant Egg | I Eat.

  4. Pingback: New Salad Trend: My Lunches Are Somewhat Less Hideously Monotonous! | Garky Eats.

  5. Pingback: Two First Names and an Ampersand | Garky Eats.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s