Book & a Bite: First Rule of Punk & Savory Oatmeal

If you like books, and you like to eat, check out my new combo: Book & a Bite. I’ll review a book and include a recipe inspired by some aspect of the story. My favorite books are so immersive, I want to live in them…and eating something the characters might eat seems the next best thing.

First up: The middle-grade novel First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez, enjoyed with Savory Oatmeal with Cheddar, Collards, and Eggs.

Malu (short for Maria Luisa), starts a new school in Chicago with her mom, far from Dad back home in Miami. Half Mexican and half Irish, Malu looks like her long-haired, dark-eyed mom (who she calls Super Mexican because of her devotion to Mexican traditions) but feels more like her dad, the tattooed, black-clad owner of a record store. Her mom bugs her to act, dress, and eat like “la senorita,” but Malu prefers loud music, Ramones t-shirts, and vegetarian dishes (with no cilantro!).

To express herself, Malu makes zines out of magazine clippings, stickers, and her own words and poems, several of which appear throughout the book in a fun counterpoint to the story. A how-to for making your own zines appears at the end. (Bonus: Check out the awesome playlist!)

Malu’s struggle to figure out who she is feels genuine. At school, she is called a “coconut”–brown on the outside, white on the inside–yet over the course of the book, she turns an insult into a point of pride when she forms a punk rock mariachi band. Awesome! She learns to incorporate her mom’s heritage with her dad’s interests into her own unique blend by following the First Rule of Punk: Be Yourself. Not always easy to do, but Malu’s story illustrates one way to figure out what that might mean for each reader.

Malu might approve of the following vegetarian recipe, which blends unexpected elements into a delicious combo. I clipped it from Eating Well magazine.

Savory Oatmeal with Cheddar, Collards, & Eggs

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

2 Tbsp diced shallot

2 cups rolled oats

4 cups water plus 1/2 cup, divided

1/2 tsp salt, divided

1/2 tsp pepper, divided

10 cups chopped collard greens (1-2 bunches)

2 tsp red-wine vinegar

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup chipotle salsa, plus more for serving (any salsa works)

4 large eggs, cooked as desired

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add oats and stir for 1 minute. add 4 cups water and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, until creamy, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-hight heat. Add collards along with the remaining 1/2 cup water and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar.

Stir cheese and salsa into the oatmeal. Serve with the collards, eggs, and more salsa, if desired.

Makes 4 servings. Enjoy the beauty of unusual pairings!