The morning after, I found myself shuffling about in his old, beige Birkenstock sandals. Drawn by the noise of running water and hassled plates, I headed to the kitchen. He was leaning over the sink, washing the old, stained Bialetti from the old coffee grounds, filling the base to the brim with fresh water, then spooning the coffee into the filter in a familiar mountain. I didn’t notice he had left the room until I heard the kitchen coming to life. Kitchen noises always seem to wake me up – they awaken the dormant hunger I learned to go to sleep with. I entered the room wearing those sandals and his pajama pants. He looked at me and gave me an inquisitive look, then an amused smile. I asked if I could do anything. He didn’t speak but gazed at the chair – an invitation to sit down.
Next, he was cutting an apple. First in half, then in slices, then in cubes. He placed half of it in a yellow bowl, the other in a second, mismatched one. The coffee was starting to gurgle, not quite as heavily as when it is done, but as if it was giving a first warning. He slipped quickly from the table to the fridge and pulled out a tub of plain (organic, I noticed) yogurt, and a bottle of fresh milk. A few scoops of creamy, silky yogurt slipped on top of the apple like a porcelain casting. Oats, nuts and raisins landed at last. He placed one bowl in front of me, then carefully poured the freshly brewed coffee in a mug while asking if I wanted milk. I nodded. Everything was so simple, and yet so different.
I had never had muesli in my life before, not like that anyway. I used to hate plain yogurt, and oats were as unfamiliar to me as exotic fruits from the Amazon. In my mind, cereal was flakes sunk in milk, and besides, I had stopped eating cereal a while back. There I was, studying food as a Master degree, and still not knowing what rolled oats were meant for. I sipped my coffee first, a tad hesitant. My mind was still full of thoughts… I was hungry but not quite able (or ready) to pick up my spoon and dig in. I guess it just happened at one point. He must have distracted me, for I don’t remember my first spoonful of that bowl of muesli with yogurt and fruit. I don’t remember my first impression, or if I closed my eyes to feel taste and texture better. I am not sure if I liked it or not back then, but I sense I must have – as the majority of our breakfasts together after that first looked a lot like it.
And not just breakfasts. We soon discovered that we enjoyed and ate more or less the same food, in similar patterns of indulgence and mindfulness. Sure, we meet half way sometimes, or perhaps we just serve ourselves slightly different portions. But in the kitchen and around the table, we found a large part of our being together, of our similarities as individuals, and of our compatibility as a couple. Since the beginning of our relationship, we knew that sharing the cooking, the eating, the shopping was fun, beautiful, and most of all, necessary.
After the well-cherished indulgences of the holiday season, with cheese and meat and booze and sweets, we both felt we needed to go back to normal and skip those things for a couple of weeks. We are cooking a bit lighter than normal these days, including for breakfast, experimenting with nut-based ‘yogurts’ and baked oatmeals – but not before having finished the last slice of Panettone in the form of Saturday French toast. Well, this is only one of the few versions of grain + yogurt + fruit we have been making since. Since that first bowl shared during a bright November morning in Bra. Somehow, we already knew it wasn’t going to be the last.
Buckwheat Granola Clusters
This recipe has won us instantly. We have always been a tad reluctant with buckwheat, as we don’t love its slimy texture when cooked. This granola, however, turns buckwheat into the most delicious, crunchy clusters – all too easy to pick from the jar while passing by, until there is none left. A recipe to make in multiple batches, as one will finish way too soon…
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together buckwheat, seeds, cinnamon and salt. In a smaller bowl, mix mashed banana, honey, peanut butter and vanilla until combined. Add the wet to dry ingredients and stir until the groats are well coated and wet. Spread the mixture on the lined baking sheet in a thin, even layer.
Bake for 20 minutes, remove and stir (avoid breaking the clusters), then bake for another 10-15 minutes, until very crispy. Cool completely in the pan before transferring to a storing jar. Serve with yogurt (or milk of your choice) and seasonal fruit – in this case, blood oranges.