What ARE You? A Granola?

Today’s Principle: Least Effort

The principle of Least Effort maintains that as long as one is engaging in doing what one truly loves, the rewards will come with little or the least amount of effort. Sometimes one will wonder why they’ve deserved to be so lucky.

I recently discovered the joyous ease of making granola. I’ve been working with Mark Bittman’s basic recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I’m not a strict recipe adherent, and so have made several variations on his formula until settling on my own version, which yields a loose (non-clumpy) blend of nutty, tart and sweet flavors.

Granola is something I ate often when I could, but I found it quite expensive, even in bulk at the local food co-op. So even though the combination of ingredients themselves is not cheap, I find the homemade variety much more satisfying to eat.  I keep my granola in a reused plastic tub with a tight-fitting lid. Every time I open it, the aroma of toasted oats, nuts and berries reminds me of the joys of living in Vermont. During a snow storm like this, I often need reminding.

[photo by Daniel W. Barlow]

The recipe for this week’s batch goes something like this:

4 cups of rolled oats, 1 -1/2 to 2 cups mixed nuts and seeds, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 to 1/2 cup of honey, and 1 cup of dried fruit. Seriously, this is it. For nuts and seeds, I mixed whole raw almonds, sesame seeds, sunflowers seeds, and golden flax seeds. For fruit I used dried cranberries sweetened with apple juice. Preheat your oven to 350 before starting.

1. Place a shallow rimmed baking sheet across two burners on the stove and dry toast oats for 3-5 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant.

2. Add mixed nuts and seeds. Stir in and dry toast all for about 3 minutes more, or until fragrant.

3. Add cinnamon and honey. Stir in for about 2 minutes, or until most of the honey is melted and stirred in with the mix.

4. Transfer pan from stovetop into the oven. Careful! It is hot! Plus, I always have a hard time not spilling anything.

5. Cook in oven for about 20 minutes, occasionally stirring the contents to get an even toast. Take it out of the oven before it gets too brown. Let it cool completely before transferring to a container.

This lasts two hungry adults about two weeks. Think of it! For less than an hour’s work, you have delicious, nutritious food for two weeks! Now I do suggest eating other food in between, but isn’t it nice to know there’s a back up, for those times you have the munchies? We like to eat our granola with yogurt. Sometimes also with maple syrup.

****

Perhaps you went through a Black Phase in high school–I know I certainly did. I went one whole month wearing nothing but black, without realizing it. My clothes were laundered and soft from constant wear. I often thought of Einstein, who wore the same outfit everyday (he kept multiples of it in his closet), so as to free his mind from having to make hasty, irrational fashion decisions in the early mornings. What genius could be bothered with that?

One particular afternoon, I was wearing my usual black pants and long sleeve blouse, but with a very warm woolen vest I’d bought at a yard sale. The seller told me he’d bought it while backpacking in Peru. I probably also wore a chunky necklace. I ran into my cousin at the Price Chopper parking lot. She was a couple of years above me in high school, and very a la mode, with her stiff New Wave bangs and bright colors. We exchanged greetings. Then she asked me, “What are you, Granola?” What? I had no idea what she said.

“What are you? A Granola?” She repeated this a few times until, like someone learning a new language, I finally understood her intent. I shook my head, No. “Well…” my cousin said, gesturing to my outfit. We parted and went about out business.

I’ve never forgotten that day because firstly, the label Granola seemed so off, yet from the outside, kinda perfect. I never considered my friends to be Granolas, yet they tended to be the Birkenstock wearing, back to nature, lo-fi types. We read books and talked revolution and loved (or wanted to love) men as equals. I didn’t do drugs, but I didn’t stand in the way of anyone’s good time.

I wore black because I was a moody depressed teenager. I wore that Peruvian wool vest because it seemed exotic to me, and filled my dreams with adventure and romanticism. Sometimes I tried to write about it. But that was all.

Secondly, it reminds me about labels. Let’s define “Granola”. A Granola was someone who was in tune with Nature and did little to harm it, but much to harmonize with it, including smoking weed, and dancing in the middle of the night during a full moon. Granolas didn’t bother to shower or otherwise groom, since they lived with the self-indulgent belief that they were perfect the way Nature made them. They were low-impact pacifists that advocated self-expression and love of all mankind. They are alternatively known as “Crunchies”.

I jived with this, though I did not identify with the Granola label. I read books and practiced telling fairy tales. I kept a journal in which I wrote short stories about discovery and rambling poems that made little sense, though they often got published in the high school literary journal. As a Buddhist, pacifism and harmonious living with nature and little thought to outward appearance was the norm. Little did I know that to the highly judgmental peer review of high school cliques, it could have been mistaken for some other social misanthropy.

***

These days I embrace my granola-eating self. I have no shame in something I’ve made of my own hands, something which nourishes and provides. Something so easy to make and offer to others. Call me a Granola, a Crunchie. Let me offer you a bowl and convert you.

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