I Believe In Childhood: Little Bowls of Joy

I love mornings like this. Diluted, soft light filtering in through the windows, hot coffee on the stove, no real obligations. It reminds me of waking up on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. Sundays were not relaxing mornings–we had a rigorous chore schedule that had to be completed by noon (which included scrubbing the bathroom floors on our hands and knees) and there was the impending dread of doing all the homework I’d put off. Sundays were never fun days.

But Saturdays…the beginning of the weekend. The first time you got to sleep in. The wandering-into-the-kitchen-late and finding your dad cooking up some french toast. The entire day stretching ahead of you feeling like anything can happen. There were Playmobil forts to be built and destroyed, sleds to be ridden down hills and crashed, and hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows awaiting you as you stood happy and flushed in the kitchen, snow dripping from your mittens and pooling onto the linoleum.

There’s no snow here right now. Here in Bryn Mawr we enjoy extremely mild winters, like so mild I sometimes don’t even wear a coat. I know. It’s crazy. I keep waiting for the other boot to drop (see what I did there?). I’m not complaining; it’s wonderful to drive to the grocery store with the windows down in January (!!!). I appreciate the low, dreamy sunlight and the early sunsets. It’s still cozy even if it is 60 degrees.

It makes me so nostalgic for the winter days of yore, though. And so, this morning when I was rummaging through the fridge trying to decide what to have for breakfast (a luxurious decision-making process that, when I had a job, involved opening the fridge, frowning, and then chugging some OJ straight out of the carton and calling it a meal), I suddenly remembered I had some Malt-O-Meal in the cupboard. If you were a kid growing up in the midwest anytime before 1985 you must have eaten or at least heard of this amazing food. Instant wheat cereal, similar to Cream-Of-Wheat, that you whisk into hot milk or water on the stove and slurp up with butter, maple syrup, or fresh fruit. My grandfather used to make this for his kids every morning–his way of connecting with his family before they all went off to school. He’d switch between multiple instant cereals until there was just a little bit left in the boxes, and then he’d mix them all together. I love that. I whisked up my own little batch, poured my coffee, and spent a good thirty minutes reminiscing. My morning was complete.

What’s your favorite wintertime childhood memory? How do you bring some of those memories to life now?

One of my favorite bands has this to say about childhood…maybe you can listen to it while the water boils.

Little Bowl Of Joy

Note: This is so totally not even close to being my own recipe, but hopefully the Malt-O-Meal folks will not sue me. Their recipe, as it happens, is also printed on the back of the box, with handy microwave instructions too! It doubles like a dream.


1 cup water (or substitute some or all of this with milk)
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons instant Malt-O-Meal cereal (try any quick-cooking grain–I bet polenta would be delicious)


Small saucepan


1. Bring water (or milk) to boil with the salt.

2. Whisk in the cereal gradually, bring the mixture back up to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. When it’s thickened up, take it off the heat and pour into a bowl (it will continue to thicken a little, so pull it before it gets really hard to stir).

3. Top with whatever you like–I love maple syrup and butter, but fresh fruit, toasted nuts, honey, and even plain yogurt really hit the spot too!

{images: carol catherine}

  1. Thank you for the beautiful imagery on this mild winter morning. There’s nothing quite like warm childhood memories to sweep me away from the desk and fluorescent light.

    • i’m all about sinking into memories. i’ve been swept away by your imagery on more than one occasion too, miss!

  2. Janet Rimar said:

    I loved this!! I grew up eating Malt-0-Meal, for many, many years. (Alternated with Oatmeal, and Maltex). Can’t wait to try the squash recipe, sounds delicious. Keep em coming!! Janet Rimar

    • Janet, thank you so much for reading! I hope we can cook together sometime!

  3. Chad said:

    We always had Co-Co Wheats… mmm. But my fave would have to be pastrami hash and poached eggs… with biscuits.

    • you have a thing for poached eggs, i think. they are pretty spectacular. pastrami hash sounds amazing!

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