In Praise of Plain Food

An ode to oatmeal and other outcasts

Pax Ahimsa Gethen

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Top-down, close-up view of old-fashioned rolled oats in a dark blue bowl.
Good old-fashioned oats. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen.

Growing up in the 1970s, the children’s show Sesame Street was a staple of my television diet. One of the muppet characters, Bert, is portrayed as square and boring compared with his fun-loving roommate, Ernie. (No, I don’t believe they are lovers, despite the insistence of some of my fellow queers.)

Bert collects bottle caps and paper clips. He also loves oatmeal.

As an adult, I can now relate to that particular passion, as oatmeal—along with potatoes, yams¹, and brown rice—is now a staple of my regular diet. To others, these starchy foods might be considered boring or even unhealthy, but to me, they are just right.

It was many years ago when I first learned from Dr. John McDougall of the benefits of a “starchivore” diet, with no added oils or animal products. As I was already mostly-vegan and loved starchy foods, this appealed to me. Whenever I have stuck closely to this way of eating, my health has improved.

One of my favorite meals is oatmeal made with old-fashioned rolled or steel-cut oats, fruit, nuts, and a splash of soymilk. My usual fruits are apples or bananas with dates and walnuts, and a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg. I’ll sometimes use peaches or strawberries when they’re in season. Paired with my beloved Irish Breakfast tea, it makes for a hearty, satisfying breakfast.

I also love eating plain baked yams (garnet or Japanese) with spinach, and brown rice with broccoli and cashews. (Having eaten primarily long-grain brown rice for years, I definitely prefer it to white; even the aroma while it’s cooking is lovely.) I can make these meals without spending a lot of time in the kitchen; I use our microwave, toaster oven, and rice cooker, and make extra helpings for eating throughout the week.

I don’t only eat whole grains and tubers; especially when my spouse cooks, we often have pasta, salads, tofu scrambles, and other dishes. But oats, yams, potatoes, and brown rice are my preferred staple foods.

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Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Queer agender trans male. Black vegan atheist, pacifist. Pronouns: they/them/their. funcrunch.org, patreon.com/funcrunch