2021 A to Z: Letter O…Weird Holidays

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2021 A to Z: Letter O

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Oatmeal Cookie Day (April 30)

Traditional Scottish oatcakes have been relied on to deliver quick boosts of energy since the Middle Ages. In fact, the story goes that soldiers would carry the oatcakes with them during wartime as a quick snack for battle that would last. 

Oats were known in ancient China as long ago as 7,000 B.C.

The first recipe for oatmeal cookies was written by Fannie Merritt Farmer in 1896. [Source: Where 7 of America’s Favorite Cookies Originated (Spoon University)]

Fannie Merritt Farmer (left), Principal of the Boston Cooking School
and author of Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1st edition, 1896. Image: Britannica.com

The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book1st edition, by Fannie Merritt Farmer. Published in Boston, 1896.

Mrs. Farmer’s original recipe

Fannie Farmer Merritt Farmer’s Oatmeal Cookie RecipeThe Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1st. edition, 1896.

“Lowly Horse Food”

Interestingly, Oatmeal had a hard time getting traction in Victorian times. Most people considered it to be a “lowly horse food” … see John K. Williams who said “Greeks and Romans considered oats to be nothing more than a diseased version of wheat. Oats were a lowly horse food for the Romans, who scoffed at the “oat-eating barbarians”, or those pesky Germanic tribes who eventually toppled the West Roman Empire. “

Then we have from the 19th century:

“To a very great number of people the value of oatmeal is little known; although the prejudice against itlong entertained, as an article of food rather fit for the lower animals than for human beings, has of late, in some measure, given place to a more just opinion, especially among the educated class, who are capable of appreciating the value of the favorable verdict of chemists and physiologists.” (emphasis added)

“Oatmeal”, The Idaho World of Idaho City, Idaho on August 22, 1874.

This is also seen in an Boston Globe of Boston advertisement in 1894 from Eli Pettijohn’s Best wheat cereal in the world, WHICH ONLY COST 10 Cents a PACKAGE who says “Unless you perform manual labor do not eat Oatmeal. If you do perform manual labor do not eat Oatmeal regularly.” 

Unless you perform manual labor do not eat Oatmeal. If you do perform manual labor do not eat Oatmeal regularly.” Advertisement published in The Boston Globe of Boston, Massachusetts. April 25, 1895.

It’s interesting to see Oatmeal getting a “bad reputation” across Victorian times. I wonder what made people change their minds over the years. Then again, Oatmeal has also had a love / hate relationship in modern times with people singing the praises of oatmeal daily and then not.

This 1891 article is “Not Complimentary to Oatmeal”. It is “much more suitable for ‘nervous, studious, or housekeeping women and children’ on account of its containing the needed phosphates;” yet, “passes digestion in a crude shape as masses of starch, which clog the body without nourishing it.”

HOUSEHOLD AFFAIRS: NOT COMPLIMENTARY TO OATMEAL. Syndicated from New York World. Published in Springfield Reporter of Springfield, Vermont. February 13, 1891.

Did you know?

The portrait of the Quaker man on the Quaker® Oats package has been updated just three times since its creation in 1877, once in 1946, again in 1957 and, most recently, in 1972.

The most popular oatmeal toppings are: milk, sugar, fruit (raisins, bananas) and butter/margarine. Among the most unusual are: eggnog, peanut butter, cottage cheese and brewer’s yeast.

Oatmeal cookies are the number one non-cereal usage for oatmeal, followed by meatloaf.

“Please, sir, I want some more.”

Mark Lester as Oliver Twist in 1968 (Getty Images)

What’s your favorite way to use oatmeal? What is your favorite cookie? Tell me in the comments!

Featured image: “O is for Ozone” from Digital Synopsis, created by UK based graphic designers Liam + Jord

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