Searching Webster’s for the Modern Diet

Growing up, I didn’t like oatmeal. I was more of a Cap’n Crunch kid. However, from time to time my mom would serve it up for breakfast, and she was the kind of mom who made you eat what she cooked, whether you liked it or not.

So I ate it, but I still didn’t like it, and all the cinnamon and maple syrup with which she garnished it could not change my mind or the epithet I bestowed upon the awful stuff—quietly, of course.

I called it “glop,” a word Webster’s defines as 1. a thick, semiliquid substance (such as food) that is usually unattractive in appearance, and 2. tasteless or worthless material. At that point in my life those denotations rang true with my connotations.

These days, I’m older. Whether or not I’m wiser or more mature is a matter of debate among my friends and family, but I like to think I’ve learned a few things since then. One of the things I’ve learned—please don’t tell my mom—is that I like oatmeal after all, and “glop” has become kind of a term of endearment.

In fact, I believe Webster’s would do well to update glop and its various forms in its lexicon. The word is rather descriptive, after all, and quite useful in any discussion of oatmeal or similar mush-like substances. Glopularity is a measure of its texture: the less texture it has, the higher its glopularity.

For example, I’ve found that steel-cut oats make a somewhat less glopular oatmeal than rolled oats do. It has more texture; one can actually discern the individual grains in the mouth. They are even bite-able, and deliver a tiny but satisfying pop when chomped upon.

Rolled oats, on the other hand, make a much mushier, high-glopularity mush. If you prefer a finer, less toothsome glop, rolled oats are probably your breakfast choice.

As for added elements, I’m something of a traditionalist—apples, raisins, cinnamon, maybe a touch of honey or maple syrup, and milk—are about the limit of my culinary exploration of glopdom, though I have heard tales of folks who suspend all sorts of things, sweet and savory, within the glopular medium. If you’re interested in a tour of glop’s possibilities, the Internet no doubt contains plenty of suggestions.

One suggestion I recently received was to suspend myself in a bathtub full of glop, as a treatment for an ongoing allergic reaction to something, one of the symptoms of which is very itchy hives. The cause is still a mystery, but I’m told a glop bath is an effective treatment for soothing itchy skin. That may be, but I can’t quite bring myself to climb in.

My wife thinks I’m crazy to endure the itching without even trying the remedy, and while she may well be correct, the fact is that there’s something about climbing into a vat of oatmeal that really creeps me out. I can’t put my finger on the specific cause; maybe it’s the quicksand-like texture I imagine it will have. On the other hand, it could be the instant oatmeal pouches it comes in. Instant oatmeal: truly glopular. Who wants to climb into a big bowl of that? Yech. IMHO. (In My Humble Opinion, for you acronym newbs like me. But that’s another story.)

I know my imagination has—probably—turned a perfectly fine skin treatment into sort of a nightmare, but . . . nevertheless. As you might have guessed, the oatmeal bath remedy has, so far at least, not been an option. I may yet be driven to it. Until then, I’ll carry on putting the oatmeal in me, rather than the reverse.

Oatmeal has become one of my favorite—and probably healthiest—breakfast options, which is a really good thing for reasons that will become clear momentarily. Other than that, oatmeal has traditionally made an appearance in only one other area of my diet: my lovely wife Carlena’s fresh-baked ultimate oatmeal cookies.

Carlena is a talented baker who has turned out a multitude of amazing desserts and other baked goods. She has had to make some changes since we discovered, in the same medical search for the cause of the hives, my allergy to wheat. This came as a shock to us both. As a life-long sandwich eater, my lunch has always included bread of some kind wrapped around a filling of meat, cheese and veggies, or maybe some tuna salad and lettuce, or possibly just good old PB and J. The oatmeal I eat is gluten-free, but you can’t make a decent PB and J sandwich with the stuff. Sure, you can suspend those things in it if you really want to—I haven’t—but even so, glop is glop

We very quickly found that, while there is an abundance of gluten-free products available at the local supermarket, we consider it a lucky day when we find one we like. So many of them contain xanthan gum, which I guess approaches the action of gluten in some way. We tried several, and found the same unpleasant aftertaste in each. After years of Carlena’s baked goods, there was nothing that even came close to what we were used to.

Trouper that she is, Carlena has made it her business to find or create gluten-free goodies for me. She’s already come up with a pretty good version of her oatmeal cookie. Well . . . she did once; she hasn’t been able to repeat it since. Why? you might ask. My brilliant wife is not in the habit of taking notes as she creates, and despite her confidence that she could successfully repeat the process, the next batch, a week or so later, was like nothing so much as petrified glop.

Bread that doesn’t immediately fall to pieces around a sandwich is also a challenge to the gluten-free baker. Gluten-free bread is by and large the opposite of glopular, it is—and here’s another word Webster’s might add to its lexicon to facilitate discussion of modern gluten-free baking—crumbular, i.e. possesses high crumbularity. The trick to making good gluten-free bread is to reduce its crumbularity to the point that it holds up to a sandwich.

I’m sure she’ll find a way to do it, if anyone can. Each attempt is a little less crumbular than the previous one; she’s on the trail. Holmes-like, she verbalizes her thinking as she puts together her thoughts, and I, her Watson, look on attentively and nod in what I believe are the correct places, all the while hoping she doesn’t call on me and ask a question.

She doesn’t, of course; though she is by profession a teacher, this lecture is for her benefit, not mine. In this realm I am merely the faithful hound, the second-banana (okay, the guinea-pig), and pretending I understand is good enough.

4 Replies to “Searching Webster’s for the Modern Diet”

  1. LOL! I had to laugh—you used the term “glop” which my nephew uses to describe the only thing that he claims he can cook for dinner. As I understand it, it’s a melange of ingredients found in his fridge, thoroughly over-cooked and served in a bowl. He does say that it’s tasty! LOL!

    I hated oatmeal for the longest time but now I eat it at least twice weekly–sometimes more often. It does wonders to keep cholesterol levels down (especially when consumed with an apple). I never use sugar but do add a teaspoon of maple syrup and cinnamon to make it delicious. Eaten 3 times per week, and having a daily apple, as well as a small handful of walnuts reduced my cholesterol by 38% after about 2 months. I don’t take meds for management of either BP or cholesterol and my good cholesterol is always above average. We truly need to focus on eating well since it does pay off.

    Oatmeal in many forms can be highly enjoyable and cookies are definitely among them. I love these Gluten-free cookies that we made for my son’s girlfriend (recipe attached). I have no problem with gluten but I know all about gluten-free bread failures; having tried a number of recipes. Some store-bought versions are passable if eaten as toast, (but none have equalled regular bread when it comes to sandwiches).

    Later, Bill

    PS: We have made some gluten-free items that turned out quite well (e.g. pie crust for apple or meat pies). But they are tricky to make and still not as good as original, flaky, buttery crusts made with regular flour. Don’t give up hope—they are getting better!

    While I’ve shut down my blog, I still have all of our recipes—let me know if there’s something you might be looking for because my wife and I may have researched and/or tested it already.

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    1. I always love your comments. Thanks for being a loyal reader. I thought of you today because I was rewiring a bass. It’s weird. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong and I checked everything for continuity, but no sound. I finally downloaded a schematic from Fender with totally different wiring. So I stripped the pots all down and started over with fresh wire and now it sounds great, especially since now it has sound. It was strange how different the wiring schematic looked. But it plays great. It’s my friend’s project bass. He made it look like Rivers Cuomo’s guitar. I wish I could send you the video of me taking it for a test run. Outshined by Soundgarden. Anyway, l love oatmeal and eat it three or four times a week. Steel cut with cut apples and a little brown sugar. I also like half a bowl of regular Cheerios with half a bowl of granola. Just need to be careful about not getting granola with a lot of added sugar. It’s great. I use soy milk, too. Unsweetened.

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    | | | Hey Aaron,I just read your oat porridge story, very glopular, indeed. I love this one because I eat oats every day, sometimes twice. Oats serve as an excellent meal for any time of day I find. I ease up the glopiness with flax meal and chia seeds to form a pleasant creamy oatmeal. Funny thing, I grew up eating ‘mush’, corn porridge, and fried mush, and make it to this day. I now have the experience to know that mush is really northern grits. I tend to eat mush on weekends and steelcut ‘glop’, M-F. I boost them both with the aforementioned seeds, as well as nuts, dried and fresh-frozen fruits. Both are great conductors for my daily barley malt powder supplement as well. 

    I’ve read your short story, Cross Lake, several times. Oh, the open ending! I hope Jack’s footprints are alone because he walked away from the friendship and Billy will find another path home, not walking next to Jack any more. It seems out of character, the bit we know of Jack, that he would turn a handshake into a tug-a-friend into the icy-cold water in revenge, which came to mind immediately for me. One question: if the ground if frozen hard, how did Billy dig up the gun, presuming he buried it in the ground long before the snow fell, the trial took place. Also in relation to the ground frozen hard – that suggests to me a deep freeze and that would ice up the lake too.  Another thought I remember came to mind the first time I read it, is a quote from the most excellent film, “Little Big Man”. I believe it is the character, Shadow, who Little Big Man had saved from death earlier in the story, so Shadow, saves Little Big Man’s life at the battle of Little Big Horn (Custer’s last stand). Upon parting he says to LBM, “I have repaid the life I owe you, now the next time I see you, I am free to kill you.” Or something like that, it’s been a while since I saw the movie. But the story doesn’t mention any animosity between the friends from earlier days, so don’t know why Jack felt he had to pay the ‘life’ he thought he owed Billy. A friend would accept that gift from a friend; not sure why it felt like a burden of debt for Jack.  Anyway, I very much enjoyed your short story and glop essay.  I will accept your lunch invitation, I wanted to bring some books by for the art market you mentioned, too. Mike and I have enjoyed your cousin Ellen’s writing. I read a few pieces outloud. Her style/voice of writing feels familiar and the kind I relate to with ease. A pleasant trip through intersecting language. Thumbs way up for What is in the Blood. (title is the only thing that is off-putting to me, despite that it makes total sense and is cleaver in that regard, but the word blood conjurs so much yikey stuff) In looking through titles, there are some that cover the theme and are easier on the thought, ie: Hand me down, Family matter, Bees in the wall, Survival instructions or Pink moon, any of these would have been my preference. I know it’s bold of me to critique a published book, a done deal, but between you and me, this title would sway me to skip looking into the book. That’s important too. I read it because you lent it to me and I’m so glad you did, again because in a shop, I don’t think the title would grab me to give it a look.  Also, I’d obscure the whole therapy idea, (What is in the blood, alludes to that) because that can be a turn off to folks who have their own problems, not looking to dive into another’s. The thing is, her poems cup the hardship of loss and show how life is the saucer that supports the cup and all the happier space around it. Very balanced writing in that way.  Thank you for sharing her work! So lunch again, sounds wonderful. Any Monday that works for you. I briefly read your last email, then went on to another task, and when I went back to find it, to reply, I could not locate it, even with a search. Computers, I don’t get them any more than they get me.  Be well and let me know if we’re lunching tomorrow a following week,Tracey 

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  3. Tomorrow I don’t think we’re going to have school. Who knows? The last essay wasn’t written by me, btw. I’m sorry that wasn’t clear. I’m going to add to the post to clarify the guest writer a little more.

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