Before the world changed (and a recipe for French vanilla overnight oats)

9 January 2021

This post is part of a series that documents food-related memories from the year 2020, recounting the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic transformed our world.

January 2020

The alarm sounds, it’s seven o’clock. Pitch dark, I convince myself I can squeeze in just five more minutes. I’ve determined the exact amount of time it takes to brush my teeth, get dressed, wake up my two year old, get him changed, and get us both out the door: 23 minutes. So I won’t wake up, not a minute earlier or a minute past.

We exit the elevator, race outside, our faces meeting the unrelenting January chill. We sprint to catch the 140 Express, our tears turning to ice, my heart pounding and my back sweating from plowing the stroller through the snowy sidewalks. Consider that my workout of the day. Sitting on the blue seats, I reach down into my bag to collect our morning breakfast: the creamiest french vanilla overnight oats – Camden’s favourite, and the only meal I will take pride in making that day. I call it french vanilla because the dates give it a butterscotch, caramel-y flavour (but also a nod to the Timmy’s french vanillas I grew up with). It’s our morning ritual, you could say, as we watch scenes of the pink sun rising over the lake, through the cracks of one hundred people’s winter coats.


I walk through the door, and the dinner table is already set. A perfectly plated mashed potato and meatball dish. The promise of a freshly cooked 30 minute meal, with ingredients perfectly measured, pre-cut and packaged in tiny plastic bags, right out of the box, turning unexperienced hungry people into home cooks. It’s magic. David pours the wine, “How was your day?” I take comfort in the warm sip of a bold red, the way it seeps through my veins with its full body.

I wish I could have cooked that meal, but there’s no joy in cooking these days; it’s only just mental energy that I can’t seem to find.

Creamy French Vanilla Overnight Oats
Serves 3

1 cups of rolled oats
1.5 cups of almond milk (any milk will do)
2 tsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla
3-4 dates (or sub 2 tbsp maple syrup)
1/4 tsp salt

Blend the ingredients for 15 seconds. This step is optional, but leads to a smoother consistency. It might help to soak the dates in boiling water just before blending. Once blended, pour the oats into mason jars and store in the fridge overnight or for at least 6 hours. Top with seasonal berries, fresh or frozen.

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