I’m trying to be a better person. You know, helping little old ladies cross the street, paying my taxes on time, eating my Wheaties.
But at most turns, I find my ambitions thwarted. The little old ladies would sooner crush my toes with their orthopedic shoes than let me within arm’s reach of their white pearled handbags. I’ve taken so long to file my US taxes, I think I’m going to have to start sending fruit baskets. And I’m not really sure what a Wheatie is, much less where to find one in Germany.
So I’ve taken to tackling the littler things. Sending birthday cards to friends, remembering to call the bank and tell them I’m going on vacation, watering the plants on a semi-regular basis, and making my breakfasts better (Wheaties or no).
I hadn’t ever cared much about breakfast before I moved to Berlin. I’d eat in front of my computer while reading emails or browsing the interwebs. My two-week rotation skipped from brown-sugar and cinnamon Pop-Tarts to toast with butter and honey to oatmeal, with random extras thrown into the mix every now and again: an egg-in-toast, cold pizza, last night’s take out, some of my roommate’s cereal (shhhhhhhh…).
But suddenly, upon moving to Berlin, I took my time with breakfast. I woke up earlier so I could sit and eat in leisure, reading a magazine, lolling over coffee. I’d spread the table with freshly sliced bread, different types of cheeses, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit, tomatoes, salamis, Nutella, honey, jams, and caviar crème – for just me! Every day!
Maybe it was because I was relaxedly employed when I arrived in Berlin, maybe it was because my life’s ambition had always been to grow up and eat breakfast at a little round table in the sun. A steaming cup of coffee in one hand, the New York Times in the other. Or maybe it was because every time I’d been in Germany visiting family, breakfast was always a grand affair, where the pantries were emptied of their goods and someone always went to buy hot rolls straight from the oven.
In any case, for the almost three years I’ve been living in Berlin, I’ve breakfasted well.
But a time arrives in any big breakfaster’s life, where the grand breakfasts become burdensome. You long for a simpler era, when a bowl of cornflakes and cold milk was enough to keep you happy. Coupled with my belated New Year’s resolution be a better person – to do good things for both others and myself, I’ve decided to say goodbye to lavish breakfasts, at least for a little while.
That doesn’t mean breakfasts don’t have to still be good – just better.
I’ve discovered, a little later than most, perhaps, the beauty of Bircher Müsli, known in most of the English-speaking world as overnight oats. It’s easy to make, it’s exceptionally healthy, and it lends itself beautifully to experimentation.
David and I have gotten into the habit of competing for the best variation. I’m a fan of coconut yogurt and cherry jam. He leans toward banana and crunchy peanut butter. We generally make up a batch before going to bed each night. I’ll slice apples while he measures the milk, and sometimes when I’m not looking, he slips in a mashed banana. And every morning, I still sit at my round little breakfast table in the sun, magazine in one hand, hot coffee in the other. Breakfasting might be less lavish now, but that hasn’t diminished the dream.
This is just a basic recipe – the beauty of overnight oats, as the internet has taken to calling them, is that they’re so rife for experimentation. Try adding peanut butter, bananas, nuts, different flavors of yogurt, coconut shavings, etc. etc. etc. In any case, make sure to use rolled oats, as they’re softer than steel cut and will absorb the liquid more thoroughly. Bircher Müsli will keep in the fridge for a few days. This recipe makes about 3 servings.
2 cups oats
1 ½ cups milk
¼ cup yogurt
1 tsp. jam
1 small apple, chopped
Mix all ingredients together in a lidded container until thoroughly blended. Make sure none of the oats are still dry (add more milk if necessary). Place in the fridge overnight.