I reeled back like I’d been shot. “What did you say?”
He tipped the brim of his visor and smiled out at me. “I have to go find the blueberries. Not to insinuate that I’ve lost them, but I just don’t know where in the refrigerator we have them.”
He smiled again. “We know three-syllable words, too!”
At first glance, this might sound normal- if you were at a diner, or a regular restaurant, or at home. But this was around 11:30 last night, and I was idling in front of a McDonald’s. The visor-bedecked speaker was my server, and I’d just been handed a promise of Bizarro-world proportions. Fresh blueberries? In my oatmeal? At McDonald’s, it’s more common than you think.
Oatmeal isn’t a new item here- back in 2010, McDonald’s debuted its Fruit and Maple oatmeal, a version that, though better than the McGriddles of the world, still had some nutritional and textural kinks to work out. I’m pleased to report that this new version is vastly superior. Last year’s version felt like two dollars’ worth of Quaker in a bowl and a lifetime’s worth of bragging rights to your significant other or sibling. I counted no less than sixteen blueberries in my oatmeal before I smacked myself in the head for being such a nerd about counting blueberries. Let that sink in. Sixteen fresh blueberries! There were at least two in each bite and they were plump, fresh, and tangy, a wonderful contrast to the sweet, nutty oatmeal.
I liked that it was slightly creamy and very smooth, tasting more like a baked oatmeal than your standard microwave job. I was a little disappointed to find neither fresh banana nor pieces of walnut, but the flavor remained. It had a great, wholesome flavor, malty and sweet, with a healthy dose of spices to keep the sugar and touch of maple syrup in check. It’s exceptional.
Opponents of the new oatmeal, Mark Bittman among them, have criticized the oatmeal in the past for its caloric value and needless additives. While it’s true that the new oatmeal, along with the humble pie I’m eating, doesn’t exactly need light cream and food starch, it’s a hell of a lot easier and cheaper to get here than to make. Why? Well, in the case of the previous oatmeal, which had mainly dried fruits and oats, it was a bit of a cop-out. I could easily make that. However, fresh blueberries are currently $5 per half pint, or roughly a cup of blueberries. And because this is Western Massachusetts, they’re organic to boot.
When I want breakfast, I don’t want to make a $20 investment to do so. Buying the exact ingredients it takes to make one serving of this- banana oatmeal ($5, for a banana and container of oats) walnuts ($5 for six ounces) light cream ($3/quart) and blueberries ($5/half pint) already has me out $18, or nine servings of this oatmeal at Mickey D’s. This version is easier to get, equally as delicious, and still one of the most nutritious hot breakfast items on the menu.