Pear and Cranberry Crisp

My Dad once dumped a bowl of oatmeal on top of my head. I don’t actually remember the event but heard the story so many times that I can imagine it clearly. I was about 1-1/2 years old and sitting in a high chair, my Dad trying to feed me. My parents said I was a fussy eater — little did they know I would grow up to be a food writer, enthusiastic about all sorts of things to eat!

Apparently my Dad became frustrated because I wouldn’t open my mouth for the oatmeal. He tried the usual methods of persuasion they used in those days: “here comes the airplane into the hangar.” “Here comes a spoon for Uncle Dick.” And all that, but nothing worked so he dumped the stuff on my head.

Unfortunately then he had to wash my hair and so on, so it was only a moment of glory for him. He was a terrific father so I forgave him this folly every time he talked about it.

I’m not sure how I came to love oatmeal. But long before it became the “healthy breakfast that lowers cholesterol and may prevent heart disease,” oatmeal became a regular part of my life because I like how it tastes.

I am fussy about the kind. I prefer Bob’s Red Mill for eating as cereal, McCann’s for cookies, crisps and other kinds of baked goods. I love fruit desserts with an oatmeal-based crust because oats are naturally sweet and mild, but not cloyingly sweet with sugar and they don’t leave an aftertaste in your mouth.

January is National Oatmeal Month. Apparently more people eat oats in January than at any other time of year. Try some yourself. A good place to start is my recipe for Pear Crisp.

Pear and Cranberry Crisp

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

pinch of salt

1/2 cup butter

5 ripe but firm pears

1 cup fresh cranberries

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the one cup flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon peel and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into chunks and work it into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly. Set aside. Peel and core the pears, cut them into chunks and place the chunks in a bowl. Add the cranberries, sugar, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons flour and toss ingredients. Place the fruit mixture into a baking dish. Cover with the oat mixture. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Makes 8 servings