The Penance

 This unknown German etching portrays a pious woman who has injured herself in an act of mortification.  Oats are a comparatively simple lifestyle adjustment.  

This unknown German etching portrays a pious woman who has injured herself in an act of mortification.  Oats are a comparatively simple lifestyle adjustment.  

    At some stage, everyone is prescribed oatmeal.  The reasons vary, from being surrounded by idiots (high blood pressure) to shrinking trousers (weight gain), but the prescription remains largely the same.  Oatmeal isn’t exactly challenging food, although those who do take issue with the stuff are usually objecting to the meal part of the equation.  Happily, the health benefits of oats are also available outside of the gruel state.

    My favorite non-gruel preparation is a classic: granola.  It’s funny that the word granola has acquired the connotation it has considering how far up the luxury ladder a quality preparation can be.  Premium rolled oats are rather more expensive than one might expect, and once the honey, spices, nuts and dried fruits are added it seems more like sacrificial ambrosia than preferred snack of the sandaled set.  In fact, the high-cost is why I insist on making it at home.  

    If the trouble is going to be taken to make granola, the only sensible option is to produce in volume.  The work is the same, whether three cups or three pounds, and granola seems to keep indefinitely—it will also disappear much faster than one might think. To make large quantities a big stainless steel bowl is needed for mixing, and the baking will have to be done on multiple sheets that are rotated between oven racks a few times—minor issues, really.  The recipe below specifies one standard canister but can easily expand to two, three or ten canisters, multiplying the other ingredients accordingly.  

    Resist the temptation to add nuts and dried fruits prior to baking.  Many recipes suggest doing so but the results can be problematic.  The former will become bitter baking for that much time (and may become rancid in storage) and the latter will either burn or become brittle.  Also, controlling even distribution is futile, meaning someone at your brunch party is going to get little more than fruit-and-nut-less shake.  Accessories are best prepared and added at time of service.  Freshly roasted pecans are the richest addition; raisins are classic, but dried cranberries, chopped dates and figs are widely available now too.  Fresh fruit doesn’t really need an explanation, although if it isn’t sweet enough try macerating it first.  

    Obviously the preparation discussed above and the recipe outlined below hardly rank alongside the cilice.  But a small portion of granola served with yoghurt is undoubtedly a leaner start to the day than a full English breakfast.  Penance?  Perhaps not.  Maybe granola is like the eponymous hypocrite's hairshirt in Molier's Tartuffe—flaunted for appearance.  Let the truly dedicated suffer beneath oatmeal; I'm not ashamed to choose granola everytime.



18-ounce canister of premium rolled oats

2 whipped egg whites

1/2 cup of canola oil

1/2 cup of honey

Pinch of salt

 Optional: Cinnamon, nutmeg, clove etc to taste.  Some may also prefer more honey for a sweeter result.  Remember though, sweetness can be adjusted at service.  


In a large stainless bowl, fold all ingredients together with non-stick spatula.  Make certain to evenly distribute.  Turn mass out onto one or two parchment-lined sheet pans.  Bake in slowest/lowest possible convection heat for two hours.  With a spatula, break up and turn granola.  Turn oven off, crack oven door and leave overnight or until dry and brittle.  Break up large chunks and store in airtight glass container.

 Oats, awaiting anointment.  

Oats, awaiting anointment.