What was that old children’s song? Mares eat oats and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy...
I bet you can hum along, and if you grew up anywhere around Sea to Sky or any place in North America, good chance your dear mom sang it to you as a kid.
If you think about it, there’s a gem of an idea embedded in those lines along with the usual fun as we meander towards Mother’s Day and contemplate how to celebrate our dear moms, who give a lot and ask for so little.
If you’re like me, you might be puzzling over how to avoid the usual Mother’s Day dilemmas, like negotiating brunch in what could be crowded or sold-out restaurants or escaping the clutches of a predictable box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers. Those can’t hurt, but there’s nothing like a personal, homemade touch, especially when wee kids are involved and it’s easy-peasy.
A super-healthy, super-nutritious but fun brekkie that anyone six or older can make with just a little supervision is exactly what Mother’s Day calls for. It could even lead to a kid being transformed into a little lamb in the eyes of mom. (I know… groaner!)
Add to that the fact that “mare” in its earliest usage often meant the mother of a horse versus any old female horse or equine animal, and oats are one of the healthiest foods on the planet, and you’ll see how far a song can go. If mares eat oats, then count me in!
The provenance of mare is an interesting one. It’s an Old English word that traces back to Teutonic times and Old Frisian, a language spoken in West Germany as early as the 8th century near Europe’s North Sea Coast. The Irish/Gaelic form is marc and Welsh, march. You can almost hear the calls on ancient Saxon farms for the animals to come for their oats. But don’t kid yourself. The farmers weren’t far behind.
Oats, oats and more oats fuelled the mighty Scottish Highlanders, huddled in their frigid stone cottages and castles, herding their shaggy cattle and ponies around the wind-swept moors, and clanging their broadswords threateningly, if we’re to believe the great legends. Oats also fuelled their Celtic cousins in Ireland and Wales, before spilling out into the rest of the British Isles, and then to the colonies clutched in the grasp of empire.
While Whistlerites may find this unbelievable, Reay Tannahill in Food in History discounts one anthropologist’s supposition that the first Neolithic interest in grain was for beer. Sorry. But they didn’t have containers for brewing beer in in those ancient times since pottery hadn’t yet been developed.
No, the primary evidence of the first human grain use is eating it, which, given the extent to which it would be indigestible, points to either sprouting it or cooking it after the little prickly bits were removed. Ergo oats as porridge or gruel.
The ancient Greeks and Romans considered oats a diseased form of wheat. Too bad for them. Oats are like a miracle food! They’re made up of about 17 per cent protein and about 7 per cent of a healthy form of oil. They also contain an enzyme which digests fat, as noted by scientist and food wizard, Harold McGee, as well as phenolic compounds which make for good antioxidants.
Their indigestible carbohydrates, called beta-glucans, absorb and retain water and reduce the risk of heart disease, especially when included in a low-fat diet. Otherwise known as soluble fibre, one serving of good oatmeal delivers about a gram of this heart-healthy fibre.
Oats’ high level of complex carbs along with all the water-soluble fibre generates another big health advantage: Good old oatmeal helps to encourage slower digestion and steady your blood glucose levels, giving you—and mom—a ready-steady fuel supply all day long.
So are you ready to whip up some unbelievably delicious and good-for-you pancakes for mom? Here’s an easy-peasy recipe for P.O.P.s (Peter’s Oat Pancakes) that hubbie whipped up for me for a pre-Mother’s Day treat loaded with oat bran and oat milk. Best in those departments are Bob’s Red Mill for the oat bran, and Earth’s Own for the oat milk, something the baristas at Alpine Cafe in Alpine Meadows turned us on to years ago and for which we’re eternally grateful, it’s so good. Plus it’s super sustainable and made right in Vancouver!
Kids young or old couldn’t dream up a better recipe for Father’s Day either, just around the corner. Either way, try drizzling the batter into letters, like “M. O. M.” or “P.O.P.” Or use them to make up your own goofy words.
As for “Mares Eat Oats” and its goofiness, it was a huge wartime hit for bands and the radio alike. Written in 1943 in the midst of the Second World War, it was a nonsense song meant to lighten hearts, and it has delivered. It’s been covered many times since by the likes of Burl Ives and Fred Penner.
These are the zany original lyrics, something you’d never find on any social media today:
Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?
That last line translates as, A kid (meaning a baby goat, although I guess it could also mean some adventuresome youngsters) will eat ivy too, wouldn’t you?
P.O.P.s (Peter’s Oat Pancakes)
Mix 1/2 cup flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder into a bowl and stir together well.
In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup oat bran and 1/2 cup oat milk. Let soak for 20 minutes or longer, then add: Another 1/2 cup oat milk, 1 lightly beaten egg and 2 teaspoons oil (canola). Stir well. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix all together.
Lightly oil, then pre-heat on medium-low a heavy frying pan. Spoon out batter to make smallish pancakes. Cook slowly, as the mixture is thicker than the usual pancake batter. When the top is dry-looking, flip over and cook until golden brown. Serve with berries or your mom’s favourite fruit. Eat!
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who wishes moms everywhere a Happy, Healthy, Easy-Peasy Mother’s Day!