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Cozy With Cream of Wheat

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WHAT gives me comfort? Cream of Wheat.

Merely the sight of the steaming, creamy cereal filling my favorite ceramic bowl comforts me. Each spoonful gliding down seems to hug me from the inside.

I used to think chocolate was my preferred substance of solace. I don't want to mislead you: I still love chocolate. But I tend to eat chocolate quickly, either in celebration or to protect my portion from encroachers.

My steaming bowl of Cream of Wheat, on the other hand, demands that I slow down, take my time, and experience it.

It's like writing a long letter to a friend, rather than sharing information more quickly by phone. There is something indescribably satisfying about conjuring up that person, sifting through recent experiences and thoughts to decide what would have meaning for that friend, and sharing that in the more permanent written form. That percolation process is absent when communicating in person or by phone.

It's like traveling by train instead of flying. Train travel permits time and space to pass at a comfortable, human rate; there's ample time to disengage, read, muse, and prepare to reenter.

It's the luxury of time.

The taste of Cream of Wheat does not excite; rather, it pleases through constancy of flavor. It's the warm glow of returning home, not the excitement of traveling to the four corners of the world. My friends would peg me as an attested travel addict - the more adventuresome the trip, the better. And yet get me on the ferry to Martha's Vineyard, a journey I've taken dozens of times to visit friends and family, and I get that warm glow inside that rivals any peak of excitement I've experienced in all my tr avels. Cream of Wheat gives me that kind of glow - the inside equivalent to one of my husband's bear hugs.

The smoothness of Cream of Wheat, when properly made, is the smooth purity of a pan flute's melody. It's that delicious smoothness of a child's arm that your tactile senses register, as you're reading aloud to her nestled in your lap.

MY mind can conjure up any number of comforting images. Perhaps most vividly, my mind places me strolling along the seashore, where wind and water combine to set my emotions free. Or I'm curled up in a comfy chair with a good book, in front of a fire, with a piping hot cup of Earl Grey tea in my free hand. Other scenes come tumbling after: of cross-country skiing with friends on moonlit winter evenings; of hiking in the woods on crisp fall days, two dogs bounding ahead but periodically looking back to ch eck the progress of those on two legs.

So much of nature and the spirit of others brings comfort to my soul. But life doesn't guarantee me access to these comforts.

Cream of Wheat?

I can have a bowl just about anytime I please. That's comforting.

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