Friday, December 14, 2012

Comfort Me with Apples and Christmas Gruel

Ok, it's not really gruel.  But thanks to Charles Dickens, gruel has a distinct holiday edge over other cereals.

There is a quintessential scene in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol...never mind, who am I kidding - all the scenes in A Christmas Carol are quintessential.  However, when Scrooge is visited by the deceased Jacob Marley, he is interrupted in eating his evening gruel.  It is often overlooked that Mr. Scrooge has stopped at an inn for his evening meal on the way home.  The gruel is just a midnight snack of sorts.

It seems reasonable to assume that in the usual spirit of Christmastime this inn served up the kinds of things seen in the breakroom of my office recently.  While it probably wasn't buckeye bars, turtle bars, spinach dip, and hot turkey sandwiches, I am sure the theme was the same.  Heavy, hearty, high on sugar, high on sodium and excessive.

There comes a time in these holy days when we all need a little gruel.

Of course, I don't literally mean gruel (gross).  I mean quinoa with milk and maple syrup.

While I do enjoy cooking quinoa with rice and mushrooms in beef broth, I especially love it cooked in milk.  I've seen this referred to as "breakfast quinoa," but I eat it for dinner or as a snack more than I do for breakfast.  Mostly because breakfast for me is coffee and digestive biscuits at work.  But also because hot quinoa - high in fiber and protein - makes a really satisfying meal when you are feeling a little food-weary.  And let's be honest - 'tis the season for food weariness.

There is no rocket science to breakfast quinoa.

For one serving, rinse 1/2 cup of quinoa.  Heat quinoa and 1 cup of milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it boils.

When it boils, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in 2 T of maple syrup.  Or brown sugar.  Or stevia.  Cook for another 8-10 minutes until quinoa is soft.  Not all the milk will be absorbed.  Add more sweetener if desired.


Avoid ghosts.

And here is where I try to be serious and introspective and tell you that this recent move has been so, so hard for me.  It's troublesome to talk about, because truthfully it has been a complex process of a few extremes and many subtleties.  I worry that if I talk about the extreme difficulties, I risk negating the extreme positives and losing the subtleties altogether.

There have been inconveniences - developing an allergy to some of our furniture, developing an allergy to the carpet in the new house, waking up with multiple bug bites, losing heat, losing hot water, not having kitchen lights, and vacuuming ants out of the walls.  One morning I opened my eyes and told Matt that I loved him.  He said, "I don't want to alarm you, but there is a spider on your face."

There have been some highlights - our Halloween party, making brownies with my sisters, and the sense of being home.

Perhaps the most significant facet of all, is the support and love of our friends.  I am learning to redefine friendship.  I've heard that in adversity you learn who your true friends are.  I think we've always known who our true friends are - what we are learning now is how very "true" they are.

Our friends have let me call them at all hours in tears.  They have put aside their own comforts to help us with ours.  They have unpacked with us, they have painted with us, they have prayed with us.  And they have given us some wonderful advice.

Proverbs likens a word fitly spoken to apples of gold.  While I have no wish to improve on the wisest man to ever live, I have to say that for me in recent days words fitly spoken have been like breakfast quinoa.

When I am most weary - when I feel like I will never again find that sense of calm and control - what has been most helpful and wholesome for me has been the good advice of a loving friend.  What I am realizing is this: in order to give the best advice, you have to understand the person you are advising; and to really understand, you have to listen.

I've been reminded to take deep breaths.  To take it one day at a time.  To examine and adjust my expectations but not give up on my vision.  And friends who have had to live with more courage than I have reminded me, "It will get better."

It is dark when I get home in the evenings.  I plug in the colored lights on the Christmas tree and curl up on the couch with my bowl of quinoa, hot milk and maple syrup.  The cereal is soft and crunchy, warm and sweet.  I take a deep breath and thank God that we're not alone.


  1. Thanks for the breakfast quinoa recipe. I had recently started eating quinoa, but didn't know about the milk version - I think I would enjoy it even more. But I must ask you, your quinoa is so pretty compared to mine - mine is just plain cream colored, is there a certain blend I should look for? Thanks!

    1. I buy the tri-colored quinoa from Trader Joe's. I like the way it looks over the other, but don't know if it really affects the taste. Let me know what you think of the breakfast version!

  2. I know the "spider-on-your-face" moments as well as the quinoa and warm brownies with sheep in the meadow. A beautiful post full of life an love of friends

  3. Hope things get better soon. The gruel sounds so yummy!


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