Friday, March 27, 2020

Home in a Bowl of Granola

Normally baking a batch of granola makes me think of home. This week thinking of home made me bake a batch of granola. 
You ask how can granola have anything to do with “home”? 

Where do you call home anyway?

For me I have two homes. Home is here in France now. Home is back in the States then. Mentally there is room for both.

The other day when it became apparent that we had to cancel our trip to visit with family in Virginia and Florida I consoled myself by baking granola. This simple activity filled my brain with wonderful memories, emotions, and experiences. For a few minutes in the kitchen I was joined by friends, family, and old familiar places.

Our dear sweet friend Anne Marie introduced us to this magical granola recipe. She would cook up a big batch, divvy it into small mason jars, and pass it out to anyone she visited. She visits with lots of people. Your eyes light up when you see that chunky mixture full of oats, nuts, fruits, butter and maple syrup - all adding up to a bowl of love.
Turns out there were quite a few of us being honored with these precious visits and gifts from the warmth of Anne Marie’s kitchen. Perhaps motivated by exhaustion, at some point she wrote out the recipe and told us we should give it a try ourselves. The steps looked daunting and it turns out a few of us were reluctant to risk the fear of failure. We requested a granola cooking lesson which was happily granted. In Anne Marie’s sun-filled kitchen we mixed up and baked granola, laughing about how easy it actually is, and wondering what had we been afraid of. The only hidden ingredient that each of us would have to add was our individual version of a great big dash of love.

As I mix and chop, it’s comforting to relive the warmth and love that Anne Marie concocted and shared with her community. I picture myself with the extended family that weaves out from that happy kitchen. I now share granola concocted in my kitchen with our ever-extending family here in Bourdeilles.

But wait, there’s even more magic to the magical granola recipe.

Home having been Vermont for 25 years I can’t help but have been influenced by Ben and Jerry’s.Their over the top need for great big chunky ingredients, the best quality flavors one can rustle up, and big scoops of consciousness. My granola is chocked full of stuff: golden sultana raisins, Perigord walnut halves (yes halves - not chopped), dried cherries (when I can find them, they hardly exist in France), sliced coconut, and goodness knows what else. Ben and Jerry’s has two easy-to-remember mantras: if it’s not fun, why do it ? and practice random acts of kindness - just do whatever you can to help the world in whatever way you can - and do it humbly.

Here’s a confession of my extra extravagant special ingredient in this magical granola recipe. It’s Isham Family Farm maple syrup. We ship it back no matter the cost. Mike Isham has even totally spoiled us and shipped us more - stop that Mike!!  (Another lovely friend has done the same, but she will remain anonymous - well because she is a lovely quiet person.)  We are spoiled!

Maple syrup makes me think of hard work, nature’s bounty, family commitment, and shared community. It makes me think of the sugar maple trees we could see from our home in Vermont, the tubing (no longer buckets) running through the forest for the sap to flow, the gurgle and gush of sap flowing into the sugar shack, the steam rising into the night sky as several generations of sugar makers work side by side to boil down the liquid gold. Hours and hours of boiling. Stacks and stacks of wood for the boilers. I appreciate the finesse of knowing how to work with nature to bring to perfection one of her gracious offerings. Vermont is full of such families. The Cotys and the Wells are two more that I have close ties with and I picture them working in the sugar shack with the steam roiling around, very little sleep until the warmth of spring arrives in full force, and everyone pitching in in whatever little way they can.

For me syrup is not just Vermont. Some of my earliest memories of traveling as a family were drives up to the highlands of Virginia. I’d stare out the car window waiting to spy lambs jumping around on the green grassy fields. I loved those lambs! I loved stopping the car to see if we could entice the bleating babies to come closer to the fence. It’s all hazy, but I seem to recall my Grandfather teaching me to stand quietly and patiently near the fence to watch. I know my parents took us up to the Highlands to partake in the annual sugar festival. Everyone high on too much sugar and camaraderie.

There you have it-  the rush of memories that mixing up a batch of granola has for me. Now here in my small village in France it is my turn to introduce the magic of the magical granola recipe.

Thank you Aunt Marj for all the Aunt Marj Cookies and the memories from the Iowa side of our homes.

Kathy please tell Aunt Marj this. She is the only person less technologically connected than Tom….

How could I forget the recipe......
preheat oven to 350 F
my oven here is weird so I have had to play with timing and when I put in ingredients (I cook by the brail method...and have modified a lot of steps from the original Magic Granola)
I also like this on the crispy side so I keep an eye on it and pull out as it is browning

First time in the oven: 15 minutes
melt butter and honey together 
mix the following ingredients together
  • 4 cups oats
  • 1/2 c oil  usually sunflower or some such I'm not picky here
  • 1/2 cup syrup
  • 3 tblsp butter I use salted
  • 2 tblsp honey I use local!
  • 1/3 cup coconut

spread out on a cookie sheet - or two 
place on middle to lower racks in the oven

Second time in the oven: 15 minutes
take out of oven and mix, especially around edges
  • 1/2 nuts I use either walnuts or pecans 
  • 4-5 tblsp ground flax

Take out of oven
stir and be sure to get off the edges
Let cool and add - and anything else that floats your boat
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • brewers yeast


Kathie K said...

Love this. I lived in Montréal for three years where maple syrup is an equally big deal.

Lynn McBride said...

Wait, where is the recipe? I love to make homemade granola. But I use canola oil and maple syrup and brown sugar. I love all the goodies you put in. Good comfort food! Hope y'all are well and safe. We are trapped in the USA! xxoo

A Small Village in France said...

I'm such a numpty!!! - I have now added the recipe!

Lynne said...

Love, love this post.
I am filled with warm, comfy, hometime, mom, feelings, memories.

Thank you for reminding me . . .
Making granola has been a favorite thing for me to do.
I wonder why I haven’t made any for a bit.
Inspired I am, I have oats here, and nuts, but I need a good maple syrup . ..
Being on lock down here for days, so getting ingredients together will have to come later.

Oh the memories you must have of making granola with your aunt.
Don’t you love handwritten recipes . ..
I have my grandmothers hand written sugar cookie recipe. Oh my!

Thank you for the inspiration . . .

Unknown said...

I so enjoyed your post. I love to cook but must confess that I've never made granola. Your post has inspired me to do so soon. I will enjoy using this recipe even more now that I know the story behind it. Thank you for sharing it.

Elizabeth Gaylord said...

I’ve made this now many times and am making it again tonight. Thank you Susan!