Ode to Quaker Oats

In this age when heads of manufacturing companies are apparently gathering around their conference tables and asking one another how they can most effectively screw up their products, I’d like to congratulate Quaker Oats for keeping their integrity and their product intact. The same round box, the same logo, the same oats. They’ve introduced quick-cooking oats, but I still stick to the old fashioned kind. Either way, the box is the same, and it’s that box that takes us all back to steamy kitchens and buttered toast with our morning oatmeal. Some cinnamon sprinkled on top, a little cream, maybe a pat of butter. I now stir applesauce in mine as a sweetener, add some blueberries, top with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Quaker Oats may be the one thing that has stayed constant in my life.

When I empty a box of Quaker Oats, it’s always hard to toss it in the trash. Somewhere there’s a Kindergartner who may need that box for a class project. I could help him. We could cover the box with fancy paper or we could paint it and put glitter on it. It could be a drum or a crayon holder or a vase for paper flowers. But my kids who once were Kindergartners are all grown up now and I don’t have anybody to play with, so I throw the Quaker Oats box away. But as I do it, I know there are untold numbers of people carefully saving theirs for their kids’ next project, and it gives me a warm feeling that the Quaker Oats people have given us that continuity.

Stonyfield Farms can break my culinary heart by changing their whole milk yogurt so the cream no longer rises to the top — I loved that risen cream! I used it on baked potatoes, steamed broccoli, French toast, and stirred into my Quaker Oats — and Palmolive dishwashing liquid can change its container to a bottle guaranteed to slip out of your hands, and my favorite lipstick shades can become obsolete overnight, and I won’t even mention the horrors Isotoner did to a great line of women’s houseslippers, but as long as Quaker Oats remains unchanged, I have hope that sensible minds will prevail. To all the other companies who ruin good products by tinkering with them, remember this sage advice: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.