Musical pairing – Gossip In The Grain by Ray LaMontagne

Cool days. Bright apples appearing in the markets and grocery stores. Pencils and backpacks, calculators and notebooks advertised at every hand. The whole world lately has been singing a back-to-school ode to me, a song of approaching autumn and the return to sweaters and textbooks and hearty, comforting food.

But wait––what food do I consider back-to-school food? In an attempt to brainstorm, I drew a blank. Other than peanut butter and jelly, I couldn’t think of many meals that I connected solely with education, even after I quizzed my parents: had we had any back-to-school culinary traditions when I was a kid? A special dinner? A hot breakfast? My mom just shook her head (“Sorry––it was cereal on school mornings for you!”) but ended up pointing me in the right direction anyway, saying “What about something you made at Waldorf?”

From kindergarten through fifth grade I attended a Waldorf school, which followed the curriculum and principles of philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Some of these philosophies included the the arts being involved in everything we did at Waldorf, copious amounts of time spent outdoors, and a lot of “whole foods” way before they were in vogue: as soon as my mom mentioned Waldorf food, my kindergarten meals came flooding into my mind. Bread we baked in class, drizzled with honey. Brown rice with a dash of tamari. Colorful vegetable soups, chock full of carrots and celery, potatoes, barley, leeks. And, a personal favorite, muesli.

Muesli is basically a dry cereal mix combined with yogurt, fresh and dried fruits, nuts, and anything else that strikes your fancy. There are such a preponderance of different recipes to be found online that I ended up ignoring them all and making my own based on what I could recall from my own kindergarten muesli meals. At Waldorf, we used a soaked muesli technique, soaking rolled oats in apple juice for at least an hour before combining the rest of the ingredients. This makes the oats rich and flavorful, and is a step not to be skipped! Though steel cut oats can also be used, they require a much longer soaking time. I tried making two different recipes, using the steel cut oats for one and old-fashioned rolled oats for the other. Both were delicious, hearty, and flavorful, but I’m just including the rolled oats combo here, since it’s the most faithful to the Waldorf muesli I remember.

So before heading to kindergarten or high school, college classes or––why not––plain old work, mix up this muesli. It’ll usher in an autumn day just the right way: with a stomach comfortably full of oats, fruit, yogurt, and contentment enough to learn whatever it is you have to learn today.

Note: The friendly gnome pictured enjoying his muesli is Carrot, my kindergarten’s mascot gnome while I was at Waldorf. When my kindergarten teacher retired she entrusted Carrot to me, and he has served as a reminder of the magical and whimsical ever since.

Avery Olund-Smith is going into her sophomore year at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where’s she’s studying English. She’s from Cincinnati, Ohio, where she attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts. She loves biking to Findlay Market and writing with the Cincinnati organization Women Writing for (a) Change, and considers food, writing, reading, and the beauties of both the city and the natural world amongst her passions.


  1. This is so wonderful! I went to a Waldorf School too… I feel like I always have a soul connection with others who did… we just “get” each other instantly. Love this music as I read too 🙂

  2. This sounds like the prefect breakfast.
    Your childhood meals sound much fancier than mine…we were a Hamburger Helper and Taco Night family 😉

  3. Sounds like a fabulous school!! Very cool.

    Breakfast looks amazing. Healthy and comforting and filling.

  4. What a fascinating education you had, Avery. I really don’t know very much about the Waldorf Schools, but it sounds fascinating.
    Your muesli looks delicious and very fall-like. I have to depend on you northeners to get me in the fall mode…it’s still so hot here!

  5. You’re so lucky to have attended a school that was way before its time focusing on whole foods. Love the little kindergarten mascot – very cute!

  6. Avery, I love when I read about how food is connected to memories..and it was a pleasure to read about the memories evoked as school begins. You have a lovely voice, my dear!

  7. A lovely bowl of muesli is a great way to begin any day. This is no exception! Btw, you are a wonderful story teller. Thanks for sharing.

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