The post-exam phase never fails to be punctuated by several bleary-eyed mornings and deviating from my usual wake-up time by half an hour; the by-product of being huddled in front of the laptop - occasionally with dad - having late night movie sessions. As of this day, the Grand Budapest Hotel never fails to amaze (as does Wes Anderson), The Pianist leaves behind stark impressions, and High Rise is plain depressing.
Anyway, back to early mornings! Breakfast at home is always a must (I've spent too much of my childhood dropping crumbs left right and center in my mum's car), and most mornings, its a bowl of oatmeal or pancakes, if I've got some stocked up in the freezer. But recently, the weather has been atrociously hot, and contrary to what some believe, yes, there IS a limit to how much bircher muesli and chia puddings that one can consume.
This leaves one answer, and one answer only: granola parfaits.
Starting this post has been a little of a challenge. Being indecisive about what to write about, jittery from sitting beside someone whose identity you want to confirm in a cafe during lunch hour, as well as distracted by a chai latte from said cafe contributes towards an unholy amalgam of emotions. And not to mention frustrated that the A key on my keyboard wouldn't work right (though its about time, since I a-aaaaaaaaaalways keep punching it). AAAAAAAAAlways. (ha! serves you right, A key)
*the following recounts a true, albeit dramatized experience I had on 06.09.16.
I come today, to write. To write for the sole purpose of writing, and to immerse myself in the task. (I come to reminisce as well). It's not going to be too long and complex, like this simple one-jar oatmeal is.
I say it as I would sigh, or say the name of a long-lost friend. It's become so much more than what it was a mere year ago. It now has the rules of structure, the laws of language enforced, weaved and folded within, akin to how pastry dough is folded, flattened and folded again for those crisp, buttery pockets of air. But I digress. Writing has more reality, less possibility. Less of those peep-among-the-clouds text, but the keep-feet-planted-on-ground type. Firmly, too.
Don't get me wrong here. I still love the art of writing - of producing works with originality and creativity. Fiction. I live with my head among the clouds sometimes, dreaming and wandering in some fictional universe. I now look at words differently, with a critical, inquiring eye. Texts now appear as passages to analyse, to pull apart and to piece together.
I believe that everything comes with a story, be it long or short, complicated or simple, it has a tale to tell. There will always be a back story to every bake and make, just like how the sole reason we are able to carry about with our everyday is that we possess backbones. Physically, that is.
These stories require some place to be penned down in. And what better place is there than a new, clean notebook?
I've got plenty of those lying about everywhere, from my cupboards down to the drawers. All fresh, unmarked, with blank white spaces between the printed lines. It all starts with a thought, a simple idea, that gets my hands inching towards those nooks and crannies. I pull one out, admiring its patterned cover, relishing the rough, dry texture against my fingers.
Then I place it on the table.
My hands clutch a pen, an ink one (that's the only sort I use), 0.38, as I begin, ever so slowly, to trace out the words. They flow seamlessly, as though the mind was a waterfall gushing words instead of water. And at the end, once I'm done, I read it once, then let the cover fall shut with a silent bang that goes on in my head.
The book lies there for a week or two more, occasionally having its pages filled with increasingly-sloppy text. Then one day, when I'm commanded to 'pack up', I just pile the books surrounding me up, and stack them neatly in a corner. I prefer to think of myself as a neat person with my color-coded files, though I know I'm hardly organised. The notebook, needless to say, is included in the pile.
It's forgotten, just like how an eraser rubs smudges from a page.
Some time later, a new notebook is drawn out, and the cycle repeats.
So now, I've ended with dozens of scarcely-used notebooks, most started off with clean, uniform text which later becomes a messy scrawl and perhaps a doodle or two on the next few pages. They've got lots of content, a whole colourful range (just in terms of content, text-wise, it's all blue, as I said)
With all my just-used notebooks come vague, directionless recipes consisting of only loose ingredients and the ideas bubbling in my head. I've transferred them all here, amidst the tests which come forth like rearing horses. It's a simple one - I'm keeping it short and sweet. Yes, sweet - like French toast is sweet and coconut is sweet, at least for me that is.
This is a simple recipe, aye, simple, without sugar or oil / butter. I don't advocate being sugar-free or eliminating any particular foods from your diet - that would be extreme, but it's a coincidence, like how tofu can be discovered to be yogurt and eggs to be like butter.
The sheet emerges from the oven as what I'd describe as a glorified tray of crisp, browned grains, the aroma wafting out sweet and so very much resembling eggy French toast. It is, after all, French toast granola. Dates take the place of sugar, not overpoweringly so, but a light sweetness which melds perfectly with granola. It's like dried fruit (it IS, really), tangy, concentrated.
It's form is that of a large plateau of grains, so break the larger pieces up and serve - with yogurt (see my recipe for soy yogurt below!) or milk, and even pomegranate arils, as I did.
Coconut French Toast Granola
1 c puffed millet
1/2 c oats
1/3 c buckwheat groats
1/4 c coconut flakes
1/4 c chocolate / carob chips ; optional
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp. milk
2/3 c pitted dates (4-5)
1. Preheat oven to 180c.
2. Combine millet, oats, buckwheat, coconut and carob.
3. Whisk egg, soy sauce, and milk separately before pouring into the millet mixture.
4. In another bowl, mash dates with 3-5 tbsp. water, into a paste with the consistency of toothpaste before stirring into the granola evenly.
5. Spread out on a lined baking sheet evenly and bake for 20 mins.
6. Remove and let it cool for 10-15 mins before serving. Enjoy.
Keep in an airtight jar for a week.
I never truly understood the hullaboo over soy yogurt - another of the incomprehensions of life and the like I have, but why search high and low, above and below, for something you think is so elusive but can be made in your very kitchen. Enjoy!
Cheat's Soy Yogurt
1 pack silken tofu
Pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp. maple syrup
1. In a food processor / blender, blend all the ingredient's together. Keep in the refrigerator.