Oat cuisine

Mr. Tidbit could hardly have expected that two more new oatmeal offerings would turn up the week after he discussed the new Dole instant oatmeal with little tubs of fruit. But he feels obliged to get the new items into print immediately, so that the oatmeal-obsessed can have them on hand for New Year's Eve celebrations.

Quaker's new entry is packets of the quick-cooking version (three minutes in the microwave plus a three-minute rest) of its steel-cut oatmeal. (A quick primer: Regular oatmeal — instant or not — is made with rolled oats, the familiar flattened items also found in granola. Steel-cut oats are little oat chips, which cook up with what is called a heartier — Mr. Tidbit would say pleasantly grainier — texture.)

Quaker's three-minute steel-cut oats were already available in big cardboard bulk cylinders like the one that your grandfather (and young Mr. Tidbit) used to build a crystal set. At one store that 25-ounce (21-serving box) was $4.09 (19 cents a serving). At that store the box of eight of the new 1.62-ounce packets, which have some additional contents (Blueberries & Cranberries or Brown Sugar & Cinnamon) was $2.99, or 37 cents a serving. The new product cooks in the same time as the bulk-packed product; the only difference is the added flavor ingredients — and the envelopes. (Consumers are directed not to prepare this product with milk — only water. Mr. Tidbit was unable to bring himself to see what would happen if he used milk.) The packet of steel-cut oats prepared a serving that measured about three-fourths of a cup (the same as regular instant Quaker oats, which costs 25 cents a serving).

The other new oatmeal is found in the freezer. Yes, friends, it's frozen oatmeal, from Lean Cuisine's new Morning Collection. There are three: Wild Blueberry & Pomegranate (that's pomegranate juice), Apple Cinnamon & Almond, and Cranberry, Pistachio & Orange Zest. All contain steel-cut oats (and — astonishingly — milk). The box of two trays (each a shy half of a cup) was $3.29 at that store ($1.65 per serving, and it's a smaller serving). They microwave in 3 ½ minutes plus a one-minute rest. Mr. Tidbit found them much grainier than Quaker's — almost like tapioca. Some might hate that; Mr. Tidbit actually liked it.

Al Sicherman