The Ubiquitous They have ruined oatmeal for me.
You know the ones I mean: the “They” who inform our daily lives, inducing fear, spreading urban myths, dispersing vague and often erroneous information. I have always envisioned them as something resembling the giant ants in the old sci-fi movie, Them. “They say that….” Who? Who says that? Rarely is the “they” who are saying these things defined. But we all know They. We all repeat their information – or misinformation.
And They have ruined oatmeal for me.
Make no mistake: I love oatmeal. I have since childhood. It was rarely on our table, since in the 1960s most mothers preferred to hand out boxed cereal and milk to their children rather than to cook breakfast. But as a grown woman with my own apartment, I indulged my love of oatmeal – indeed, of all hot cereals. Cream of Wheat. Coco Wheats. Rolled Whole Wheat. And oatmeal. Real oatmeal – not that wimpy instant stuff. Old fashioned oats, which took longer to cook and were rich with texture and flavor. Rarely did I add in anything except a handful of raisins and some raw sugar. And even on those days when I caved to a time crunch, I could satisfy my longing with a delicious but now-discontinued cold cereal called Post Oat Flakes.
I was never quite able to convince myself that Cream of Wheat, laden with a big pat of butter and sugar, was really good for me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless; ditto, Coco Wheats. I still remember fondly a winter morning before school when I had spent the night at a friend’s home; her mother believed in a hot breakfast on winter mornings, and so I sat down to a bowl of piping hot Cream of Wheat with a pat of butter still warmly melting on its surface. Rolled whole wheat cereal, harder to find but prepared laden with honey, delighted me, and I could at least tell myself it was a whole grain. But oatmeal – oatmeal was GOOD for me, and I loved it. As I grew to adulthood, I rarely had time for it except on weekends until the addition of microwaves as standard office equipment meant that I could have my oatmeal for breakfast constantly. A recipe for Scottish oatcake was so delicious that I swore to indulge on it only a few times a year. Exercising restraint, I permitted myself to bake oatmeal raisin cookies only at the holidays. I rejoiced when oats were declared, “heart healthy”.
Then my little world of hot cereal began to collapse like a deflating balloon. The word that poisoned my world was glyphosate.
Glyphosate, the broad-spectrum herbicide used on genetically modified crops. Glyphosate, determined by multiple jury trials to be responsible for causing cancer for those who used it regularly. Glyphosate, infesting soil, water, animals, and crops; occasionally mentioned by a few experts as a potential factor in the declining honeybee and butterfly populations, just as DDT had done to an earlier generation. Glyphosate, sprayed (They said) on harvested grain to dry it for storage. Glyphosate, ruining my Cream of Wheat, my Coco Wheats, my rolled whole wheat cereal. Glyphosate, infesting my healthy, hot, delicious oatmeal.
I continued to eat oatmeal even after first hearing about the glyphosate contamination of oats—even contaminating organic oats, due to the spray drifting from treated fields over nearby organically grown and dried crops. The Ubiquitous They, I reasoned, might be wrong, after all. They might be repeating yet another urban legend.
But They weren’t. Lawsuits entered the courts, claiming glyphosate contamination in both hot and cold oat cereals, regular and organic. The company responsible for marketing the deadly weed killer was ordered to pay an incalculable sum to a groundskeeper who used the preparation regularly and contracted lymphoma.
Sadly, even after switching to an organic brand and praying it might not be contaminated, I find that I can no longer enjoy my healthy, delicious hot bowl of oatmeal. I can no longer bake and eat my favorite oatmeal raisin cookies, even at the holidays. I’ve entirely stopped baking my beloved Scottish oatcake.
I suppose it wasn’t really They who ruined oatmeal for me, but corporate lies and greed and misinformation, coupled with ecological apathy and insouciance.
But if I ever encounter giant, mutant ants, I’ll send them to the They who ruined oatmeal for me.