Coffee and Oatmeal

TALKING TO MYSELF - 3 November, 2013      Day 3: I am thankful I have matured enough to like oatmeal and coffee for breakfast, two "good for you" items that remain on my restricted dietary advisory lists. 

The Internet is swimming with research on the health benefits of coffee. I pulled this one up from the Huffington Post but the Mayo Clinic, WebMd, all the "big ones," have similar, if more densely written, articles.


Oatmeal is also up there near the top with the "food is medicine" folks. Here is a link to only one of  many such articles I found online about the benefits of Goldilocks' porridge. 


And finally, here is an essay from Butter in the Morning about coffee with a little lard thrown in for fun.


 “Well,” as Will Rogers said, “all I know is what I read in the papers.”  On Monday, a report came out saying that coffee – even lots of coffee -- is good for your heart.  Another study claims it lowers the risk of Type II diabetes, and yet another that it helps prevent colon and prostate cancer.  It boosts mood and stops headaches.  It cuts the risk of developing both Parkinson’s disease and tooth cavities, and even slashes cirrhosis of the liver.    They’ve now concluded that drinking coffee extends your lifespan.  Coffee is the new health food, ready to challenge broccoli and whole-wheat toast.

I’ve been a three cups a day gal for most of my life, sinfully slurping away, as one expert after another warned me it was bad for my health.   Now my guilt has been washed down the drain with the coffee grounds, and overnight I’ve been transformed into a health food consumer.

I wish my parents could have lived to see coffee elevated to the status of a miracle drug.  Daddy, especially, with his broad sense of humor, would have gotten a kick out of it.  He and Mother both loved coffee, and the coffeepot was always hot in their kitchen.   Before guests could sputter hello, he would order them to “sit down and have a cup of coffee.”  Now he would be adding, “Doctor’s orders!”

Of course, Mother intuitively knew coffee was good for her.  It was her Geritol, her energizing elixir.   Pushing through a long life of arthritis pain and other nagging illnesses, she’d say every morning, “Let me have one more cup to get going.”    And sure enough, coffee rarely failed her. 

It’s not surprising then that I married a man who is also obsessed with coffee.  Ernie fell into the habit of drinking it at all hours to get through twelve-hour days at the office.  Then one Christmas, someone gave him an electric grinder, and the rest, as they say, is history.  He turned into a coffee connoisseur grinding up the likes of “Big Blue Blend” fresh every morning.  He sniffs coffee beans like others do wine corks.   Given the amount of coffee he drinks, I predict he will live to be 101 like Uncle Bo, who, by the way, enjoyed a hot cup or two every morning. 

I was still reeling from the news of coffee’s sprint to the top of the food pyramid when I ran across an article touting lard as the new organic fat.  That would be lard, the greasy, gooey stuff we used to render on the farm at hog killing time.  Hogs were always butchered in the dead of winter so the meat wouldn’t spoil before it could be consumed or cured.  It’s not a pretty scene, slopping around in January muck with a frantic pig, and I’ve spent a lifetime trying to repress images of hog killings.  I enjoy a ham sandwich a lot more if I don’t think too much about it.

But back to lard, the chic new organic item on the menu.  We rendered the melted fat of the pig into silver looking five-gallon tin containers that we wittily called lard cans.   Lard cans were our object d’ art, useful folk creations worthy of cradling an organic health food.  We turned empty ones into flowerpots for the front porch, and if chairs were scarce we sat on them like stools.   You could also store pictures and newspaper clippings in them.

Before it was empty, though, we’d dip out of a lard can for weeks or even months with a large, bent tablespoon much the same way the young clerks at Baskin-Robbins reach down into huge pails of ice cream.  Lard is pretty in large quantities.  It looks like gallons and gallons of white, fluffy cake icing. 

Ignorance was bliss in that innocent time before we knew about cholesterol, and we emptied a lot of lard cans.   Later on, when lard was accused of murdering half the local population, we stuck up for it.  The best cooks that ever were –people like Mother and Aunt Helen – said lard could not be equaled for making a flakey piecrust or biscuit dough or for frying chicken.   Lard was missed when it was forced into exile.

They’d be pleased to know that lard has now been rehabilitated and is respectable again.  But having seen more than a few hog killings, they’d be put-off, I suspect, by the stuck-up airs lard is putting on in organic food markets.  In fact, I wonder if people would be so enchanted with the notion of organic- anything if they’d spent time on a farm.   Organic often seems to me to be a code word for things we can’t talk about in polite society, like fertilizer that starts out as cow manure.

But who am I to argue with the newspapers?  I’m sending Ernie out now to a natural foods store to locate some Peruvian organic blend coffee beans that have been roasted in lard. 


 Butter in the Morning, Stamper's latest collection of essays and "brief meditations," is available from Amazon.com and your favorite independent book store. In Lexington - at Morris Book Shop, Joseph-Beth, and House interiors; in Ashland - at Jesse Stuart Foundation Book Store and Highlands Museum Gift Shop; in Owenton - at North Park.