Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Story of Muesli: Fifteen Years in the Making

Sometimes you just have to wait for the right moment for inspiration to hit. Or more likely in my case, I wait around for the universe to slap me on the forehead, prompting a "duh!" moment.

Take muesli, for example. Fifteen years ago, Dave and I were living in Paris. I was ostensibly researching and writing my dissertation. He was trying to finish his dissertation. Really what we did was hang out in coffee shops like Deux Magots in the morning, eat our lunch in the Luxembourg gardens if the weather was nice, shop for dinner at the market and then eat that dinner in our little apartment. In other words, we did a lot of eating and absorbing of life, not much else. And one thing that we really liked was the muesli we bought in the store. It was so tasty and so unlike any cereal we'd ever had at home.

Since leaving Paris, I'd like to say that my life's ambition has been to find the perfect muesli again. I guess that would stretching the truth a bit, since a lot of life has happened since then (I left grad school, Dave got his PhD., we moved to the middle of nowhere, had kids, etc. etc.) but the quest for decent muesli has always been there in the background. Temporarily forgotten but never abandoned. Needless to say, it didn't matter how expensive or exotic the box of muesli, it never seemed to measure up to the stuff we had in Paris. Of course, it only takes a little bit of self-knowledge to recognize that Paris itself probably had a lot to do with the whole flavor of those breakfasts.

I recently found a great granola recipe from Mark Bittman that I've been making fairly regularly for the past year or two. It's wonderful, no oils, flavorful, and it holds you till lunch. The only drawback is that sometimes I'm just too lazy to deal with the minimal amount of cooking involved. It's the dishes, really, the dirty cookie sheets, that put me off. Sometimes the prospect of a dirty cookie sheet is all it takes to obliterate good intentions, prompting me instead to slice off a chunk of gingerbread for breakfast. Tasty, but not sustaining.

This was the situation this morning. The granola jar is dry as a bone. The gingerbread practically jumped off the counter at me, tempting me to take the easy path to breakfast. And then I remembered something I'd read in Bittman's Food Matters: "Swiss-style muesli is basically uncooked granola." The big hand of the universe just whopped me on the forehead and this time I had to the good sense to pay attention. A little raw oats, some chopped almonds, shredded unsweetened coconut, jumbo raisins, a sliced banana, some maple syrup and a bit of milk. In the time it took to throw all this into my bowl I'd re-created that muesli nirvana (minus the atmosphere, of course) from fifteen years ago. It particularly helped that I got distracted after pouring the milk, so everything had a chance to soften up, making the absolutely most perfect bowl of muesli I've ever had.

Now if I could only get a copy of Le Monde delivered to my door and have a boulangerie down the street I'd be set.


Anonymous said...

This is no where near the quality of your muesli, but I've been on the search for currant-berry jam that I had in France. I went there for 12 days in high school and every hotel we stayed in had this jam in those little disposable packets, but I can't find that flavor anywhere! Urgh. I've even contemplated growing the berries myself to try to recreate that taste.

Michelle said...

so no cooking at all?
was the milk hot?

Kitchen Mama said...

MilkMaid: I felt the same way about "myrtille" jam until I found it was the same as the Bon Maman "Wild Blueberry" jam (which I can find in most stores). Creme de cassis is red currant liqueur. I wonder if the jam is the same berry?

Michelle: No cooking. Cold milk. Just let it sit for about 5-7 minutes. Delish!