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Cream of . . . mush?

December 23, 2020

I’ve been thinking of Cream of Wheat lately.

No, thinking about warm breakfast cereal isn’t some weird manifestation of social distancing and isolation that I’ve suddenly started experiencing.

I like breakfast cereal and I like combining small amounts of different cereals into one mouth-watering, marvelous morning meal mixture.

Or a beguiling breakfast.

One of my current cereal ingredients – I suppose you could call it my base cereal – is Grape Nuts. I love Grape Nuts, but they have one drawback which is that they’re as hard as little rocks. If I’m eating them alone I can solve that by letting them soak in water** for a few minutes to soften. But if I’m combining them with other cereal flavors, then by the time they soften, the other cereals have become soft and unrecognizable. How, I thought, can I solve that problem? I sort of solved it by combing Grape Nuts with cooked oatmeal (really good, by the way!) but I’ve yet to figure out how to soften them for cold cereal. I know they have Grape Nut flakes, but I want regular Grape Nuts with that chewy and nutty texture.

Yes, I want my cereal and I want to eat it, too. It’s my burden.

So when I was looking online for ways to turn little rock-like Grape Nuts into soft Grape Nuts that played well with other cereals I stumbled onto some recipes for warm breakfast cereals using whole grains like farro, millet, wheat berries, grits, etc. Can we say “Yummy!” together? Clicking around those recipes not only gave me ideas, it brought me to Cream of Wheat.

Good old Cream of Wheat.

I loved Cream of Wheat when I was a kid. Same with CoCo Wheats and Malt-O-Meal and Maypo. The standout feature for all of them – for me – was the lumps. I loved the lumps.

So I recently bought a box of Cream of Wheat. Not the instant or quick cooking stuff, the regular stovetop stuff. I couldn’t wait for breakfast to roll around.

What a disappointment. It tasted good and all, but there were no lumps.

What happened to the lumps?

Did they change the recipe or something? Did the cooking properties of boiling water change since I was a kid? Does the new stainless cookware have hidden properties that prevent cooked cereal from clumping?

I tried adding the Cream of Wheat to the boiling water slowly, and I tried adding them all at once, and it didn’t matter. Either way it was as smooth as Chris Stapleton singing about Tennessee Whiskey (which is pretty darn smooth). I tried taking the boiling water off the stove and dumping the Cream of Wheat in all at one time and not stirring it until it looked like it was starting to absorb the water. That held promise because it felt a little thicker when I stirred, and I thought I spotted some precious little lumps, but no. No lumps.

Failure.

Tasty failure, but failure nonetheless. And I’m at a loss.

So, does anyone out there know how I can get lumps into my Cream of Wheat?

** I don’t drink milk so I use water on cereal. People think I’m crazy when I say that and I know that because they either give me “that” look or they simply say, “Water on cereal? You’re crazy”. I hope you don’t think I’m crazy.

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