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The Ingredient That Matters Most


On the way home recently, we saw several deer run into the woods.  None of them had a red nose but, it reminded me of a phone call I needed to make.   Normally this time of year, the Grand Elf doesn’t have a lot of time to talk but, on this particular occasion, he took a few moments.  When talking to an international celebrity, what do you ask?  Being a food person, I chose to talk about what I know.  

Santa, I’ve always wondered.  What do you eat for breakfast, milk and cookies?  Contrary to popular belief, Santa is not a big sweets eater.  “Oh, I ate my share of cookies in the early centuries.  But these days, I gather cookies from all over the world and bring them home to the elves.  It gives me such great joy to see their faces light up when I give them cookies made with sincere love.  You know that’s the most important ingredient.  And I confess, I give a few to the reindeer.  Their favorite by the way is oatmeal raisin with double the oats.”

Santa went on to describe his favorite breakfast.  “Not just any oatmeal, Magic Oatmeal.”  What makes it magic, Santa?  “Well, the ingredients.  Start with steel cut oats cooked with skim milk (not water).  When done, stir in cinnamon, a little butter and just a touch of honey.  Next, add raisins, chopped walnuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.  Dried cranberries make a nice holiday addition.  I like a good whole grain toast and fresh squeezed orange juice with that.”  

Wow, Santa that’s a very balanced breakfast.  You’ve got your whole grains, nuts and seeds, dairy and fruit all in one simple meal.  So, what’s the most important ingredient?  The oats?  The nuts and seeds?  Santa shakes his head no.  “In any recipe, the most important ingredient is Love, pure, sincere and heart felt.  Do you know where I get the energy to make all of those toys year after year?”  From your oatmeal?  “Ho, ho, ho.  What makes any gift special?  Why do children want to be good?  What causes that warm feeling this time of year?  The answer is the same for all of these questions.  Anyone can make oatmeal for breakfast.  But when you make it special and take the time to add extra ingredients and serve it to someone with tenderness in your heart, then it becomes magic.  Think of all the things you do every day, all year long.  I never make a single toy without thinking about the person for whom I am making it.  When we work with this kind of joy, it adds a whole new dimension to our lives.  Our work whether in a kitchen, a toy shop or an office can be a joyful opportunity to find meaning in life if we include the most important ingredient.  With some practice, we start finding energy we didn’t even know we had.”

It’s amazing how just a few minutes on the phone with Santa can bring everything into focus.  With utmost grace, he reminded me of why I called.  I realized I had been keeping him so I quickly shared my list for the children.  

Santa’s timeless wisdom made an impression.  Whether chopping vegetables, stirring soup, or tossing salad, the most important ingredient is putting ourselves into the task.  There is no substitute in this life for making something good for someone else.  What better time of year to prepare a meal with fresh ingredients?  And with Santa’s gentle reminder, the task becomes so much more meaningful.

If you are not an oatmeal fan, try this granola recipe.  My wife Kathy (I swear she must be related to Mrs. Claus!) has been perfecting it over the years and it meets with Santa’s approval.  There’s nothing like a good granola to get a day of toy making started. Merry Christmas from our kitchen to yours.



Tim Scallon is a registered dietitian nutritionist with many years’ experience practicing nutrition therapy in local hospitals and clinics, teaching nutrition and developing healthy recipes.  He helped create the popular TV show Memorial Cooking Innovations celebrating the world of food and health.  Memorial Cooking Innovations is produced by St. Luke’s Health and the City of Lufkin.  It currently runs in 62 cities and is locally available on Sudden Link cable TV channels and online at www.chistlukeshealthmemorial.org. 

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