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A Harte Appetite: Granola

flickr user rusvaplauke (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

You’ve probably heard the old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You might have thought the phrase was coined by a committee of nutritionists or the Food and Drug Administration, but the truth is it actually originated in 1944 as part of a marketing campaign launched by General Foods to advertise breakfast cereal.  Thus,  the second most important ingredient in the widespread popularity of breakfast cereal is advertising. (The most important is sugar.)

Though some of today's cereals are a far cry from the healthy foods their inventors envisioned, cereal itself nonetheless has played a vital role in the history of human civilization.

Before humankind learned how to grow cereal, humans were hunters and wanderers and dependent upon the available supply of animals for food.  Once humankind learned how to raise cereal for food, life changed from that of wanderers to that of people who could settle down in the same place and grow crops.  This innovation paved the way for leisure which made possible all of the main achievements of humankind such as science, language, and literature.

Over the Millennia civilization has progressed and so has breakfast cereal. Among the earliest of modern cereals was granola, still a staple today, although these days you have to be careful with granola because some of it is little more than cookies masquerading as health food.  A steady diet of such high fat, high sugar concoctions can render these versions real cereal killers.

Therefore, though there are some healthy granolas on the market, the best way to insure you’re eating a healthy granola is to make it yourself.  It’s not difficult.  Besides, a bowl of homemade granola is a much better way to pay homage to the civilizing influence of cereals  on the human experience than a bowl of Lucky Charms any day.

Georganne Syler’s Granola
This is hands down the best granola I’ve ever tasted. The recipe is courtesy of Georganne Syler, a nutritionist who knows a thing or two about healthy food but also, one of the best cooks in Cape Girardeau, knows how to make food delicious, too.

4 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts, or almonds)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup oil

Combine oats and nuts.  Stir together brown sugar, honey, salt, cinnamon, vanilla and oil.  Pour  over oats and nuts and toss to roughly coat dry ingredients.  Spread out on a foil-lined sheet pan and bake at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes until golden, stirring occasionally every 10 to 15 minutes.  Cool on rack, adding dried fruit if you desire.

Tom Harte is a retired faculty member from Southeast Missouri State University where he was an award-winning teacher, a nationally recognized debate coach, and chair of the department of Speech Communication and Theatre.
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