As a child, one of my favorite books was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, which details in mouth-watering specificity the meals cooked in Laura’s husband’s family when he was growing up. I remember beautiful descriptions of the breakfasts, particularly: pancakes stacked high with dollops of fresh butter and maple sugar; two kinds of fruit pie; a pinkly glazed ham …
I liked the abundance, sure, but I also liked the ritual and regularity of it all. Saturday mornings: the feast. Saturday nights: bath. Sunday mornings: church.
My childhood moved with some ritual and regularity, too, marked largely by the specific rhythms of church and garden, which I associated with my dad. My mom gave us our household routine; for instance, I remember a period of Saturday mornings when she would wash her long hair, and since she liked to let it air dry, we wouldn’t leave the house till afternoon. So she’d stir together bread dough; I’d help knead, and by the time the bread was ready to come out of the oven, her hair was dry and we could go out someplace.
My current life doesn’t feel like this at all. The routine feels very ad hoc, always shifting in response to the boys’ school and practice schedules. Laundry day comes whenever dirty clothes overflow the hampers, bread gets baked rarely, marketing happens at different grocery stores or farmer’s markets (we’re lucky to have so many to choose from) when we can squeeze it in between other errands.
The one fixed weekly cooking event, often but not always on Monday night, is baking granola. I eat this every morning, and usually Eli joins me for some “mama breakfast” too. The recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s wonderful Feast (an aside: if you don’t have this cookbook, run out for it now. It doesn’t just offer great recipes, it’s beautifully written; the section on funeral feasts brings me to tears. The Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame is worth the price of the book alone [just please ignore her insistence that plastic wrap lining a cake pan won’t melt in the oven. It will. Skip that step.])
So here’s the granola recipe. It’s a fine thing to make with kids, as the measuring doesn’t need to be exact, and they love to scoop up the ingredients, dump them into a big bowl, and stir it all up with their hands.
6 cup rolled oats and/or raw multigrain cereal flakes (Trader Joe’s carries a nice barley-oat-rye-wheat flake mix that I use)
2 cup raw slivered almonds
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup raw sesame seeds
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup ground flax meal
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 scant cup honey, rice syrup, maple syrup, or some combination thereof (I use half brown rice syrup and half honey)
1-2 cups dried cranberries or raisins (optional); add these after the granola has baked, otherwise they get too hard
Preheat oven to 320. Stir together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl until well combined (this part can be done with little kid hands).
Add the oil and honey or syrup, and combine well. Pour into two large, lightly oiled baking pans (I use two metal roasting pans) and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring two or three times along the way.
Remove from the oven then cool completely before storing in an airtight container.