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My adventures of Oatmeal with Quaker Oats in the Canal Zone

By Louis Barbier


I am going to tell you a little story of my adventures of Oatmeal with Quaker Oats in the Canal Zone. First, let me say that the period was in the mid 50's and hot cereals were KING! In fact, in our house they are still KING! Now the Panama Canal Commissary stocked lots of breakfast foods. Dry cereals were in their infancy. Some mother's bought them but the choice is not like today were cereal and cereal products take up two aisles in your friendly supermarket. Wheat Germ was always around for putting a little dash on the finish hot cereal. You could also get Farina. And little babies would be started on pabulum. Did you ever taste or eat pabulum? it is not bad but I wouldn't want to eat it every day. Now Oatmeal is another story. The topping of fruit was always natural. Bananas was the first choice. But some put on raisins, crunch of Mary Jane or Jane Parker's cookies, also a dash of cinnamon was also the piece of resistance to a hot bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. So, at our house we had a bowl every day of the week. Oatmeal sort of grows on you after away. Here in the South "Grits" is also King. But in Panama and in the Canal Zone Oatmeal is the breakfast food of choice--- that and a cup of cafe Duran. I can remember on one of my Escapes to Panama, I would have Oatmeal from a glass--- like Ice Coffee--- a real quick pick-me-upper. Now, in the mid 50's when Cuba was free, there was a program that was broadcast directly from Havana every afternoon at about 4 in the afternoon. It was a western about 3 brothers who roam the west keeping order. The theme song went a little like this--- "Avena Quaker cada dia para fuerza y energia--- translated means Quaker Oats everyday for energy and well being..." the scene in your mind's eye from the sound coming out of the radio in the kitchen was horses riding up and stopping. In the background the brothers would break out into a song with--- "We are three brothers (Villa-lobos) and none of is a fool!" Now in all spanish it went like this,"--- Hemos los tres los tres Villa-lobos hemos los tres y ninguno era boobo!" It was a very popular program. My mother would listen to it every afternoon. I could hear the program as I came up the back steps of our Tropical duplex in Cocoli after school. Their Sponsor was Quaker Oats. Of course the Saturday afternoon matinees were 99.9% westerns. And the hero was always giving his horse a bag of oats as a reward. The Panama Canal Commissary had lots of oats. One could find the vanishing Oatmeal cookies there too.


Today, the American Heart Association says that the product oats provides a lot of water soluble fiber which is good for our little bodies. Back then the warmth that is provided to a little kid in the pit of his little stomach after eating a few spoonfuls was very comforting. You knew that after finishing your bowl of oatmeal it could only get better. Your favorite western horse Smoky ate oats so it had to be just greeeeeat! Besides the cup of cafe Duran was the finishing touches on the perfect breakfast. By then you could hear the school bus making its rounds to pickup the kids...the horn would sound and it would get louder as it approached your house. You scrambled to finish your oatmeal and coffee and gather your schoolbooks heading for the front door as you yelled to your mother that that was the best oatmeal you had had in your whole life. And so it went with Oatmeal for breakfast every morning in the old Canal Zone in a little town site called Cocoli.

Well in closing and since I mentioned "Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies" you may want to make some for your tribe. Or even to crunch up in your hot oatmeal. So, here it goes:


1 Cup (2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened

1 Cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 Cup granulated sugar

2 eggs or 4 egg whites

1-teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon grounded cinnamon

1/2-teaspoon salt (optional...not necessary)

3 Cups Quaker Oats quick or Old Fashion uncooked)

1 Cup raisins


Now, for phase two:


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together margarine and sugars until creamy.

2. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.

3. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt (optional); mix well.

4. Stir in oats and raisins. Drop by round tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.

5. Bake 8 to 10 minutes for a chewy or 11 to 12 minutes for crisp cookie. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack and cook completely.


Yields: 4-dozen

Nutrition---1 cookie: Calories 100;


Now if you were working in the Panama Canal Commissary Bakery you would use 3 times the amount and the yield would be 12 dozen.


Well, I hope you enjoyed that. When it gets colder in the fall or early winter you may want to cook up a batch. Sprinkle on some rum (Ron Cortez) or whatever. Not to worry it will all bake off? But your closed up house or apartment will get a delicious aroma! Yea, Oatmeal cookies may get you dreaming of when you were a little kid in the Old Canal Zone and each morning meant a bowl of hot oatmeal...yes, life didn't get any better than this--- Yes indeed!