Back in the simpler, sunnier days of third grade, our teacher would read books to us after lunch recess. Cheeks flushed pink from galloping around during recess, we third graders sat contentedly at our desks while our teacher read, all the while propping our tired heads up on bent arms. One time our teacher read us a book about a little slave boy who lived on a plantation in the South. Pleasures on the plantation were few, but this little boy was granted one treat: his mother would pour molasses onto a plate and the little boy would tilt the plate, letting the molasses slide down and then lick the molasses straight off the plate with his tongue. Imagining a sweet, sticky, candy-like syrup, we third graders let out a unanimous, “Mmmm!” though most of us had probably never tasted molasses. Our teacher put her book in her lap and responded matter-of-factly, “Molasses is not sweet like syrup. You don’t want to eat straight molasses without anything else.” I don’t know whether we collectively squealed, “Ewww!” or not, but I’m pretty sure we wrinkled our noses at the thought of licking not-sweet molasses straight off a plate like the boy in the story.
Thus, since third grade, molasses has been for me something that absolutely must be accompanied by plenty of sugar, flour, eggs, butter and spices. In small quantities, molasses imparts a lovely, subtle burned-caramel, brown sugar flavor to whatever baked goods it is added, whether gingerbread or molasses cookies.
Last week, however, I was making these oatmeal pancakes when I happened to taste a bite of cooked oatmeal with molasses. The molasses flavor was unusual, a bit odd, but delicious. I took a few more bites—also delicious. The next time I had oatmeal, I boldly drizzled on molasses instead of my usual brown sugar. Deliciousness confirmed. Soaked into the dense flakes of oatmeal, molasses possessed a fabulous, distinct flavor that didn’t need to be shouldn’t be masked by sugar, flour, eggs, butter, spices.
Thanks to Oatmeal the Gallant, some inaccurate preconceptions formed in my infantine days were laid by the wayside. Never again will I suppress the odd but delicious flavor of molasses.
And yes, I licked the molasses off the side of my bowl and I thought it tasted pretty darn good.
Oatmeal with Molasses
If you’re thinking of making your oatmeal in the microwave, have cold cereal for breakfast instead. To truly appreciate the toothy texture of oatmeal, it must be made on the stove. Instant oats are also a no-no. I like to use a combination of rolled oats, rye, wheat and barley flakes (available at Trader Joe’s), which adds a more interesting depth of flavor.
Makes 1 serving.
1 cup water
½ cup rolled oats
Dash of salt
- In a cute little saucepan, bring the water and a dash of salt to a boil.
- Pour in the rolled oats. Stir, watching constantly. Reduce the stove temperature if you think the oatmeal might boil over.
- Boil until all the water is gone, about 5 minutes, stirring as necessary.
- Spoon the oatmeal into a bowl and drizzle molasses over the top. Eat.
- When you finish eating your oatmeal, put down your spoon, make sure no one is looking and lick the remaining molasses off the bowl.