Oberlin Blogs

My Happiest Place: Part 1

January 2, 2021

Megan McLaughlin ’22

The thing I miss the most about non-COVID era college isn’t going to classes in person. I’m fine with Zoom— I get to wear my pajama pants to class and drink my coffee out of my favorite mug. It’s not playing in large ensemble, camping out in the library, or getting coffee with friends, either. It’s a tough call, but I think the thing I miss the most from pre-COVID times is my co-op.

I joined Fairchild Cooperative (also known affectionately as Fairkid) in the fall of my second year, and loved every moment of it until going home last March. In spring of 2019, my friend Lily and I were honored to be elected as co-granola makers, one of the many positions in the co-op. Six days a week, we dreamed about the masterpiece we would make, and on Tuesday night, all of our plans came together. 

Tuesday night in Fairchild co-op during spring 2019 was my happy place. On Tuesday night, Lily and I would spend hours making granola before taking a low resolution picture with it on PhotoBooth to send to the co-op in a witty email. Of all the emails to receive from the co-op email list, nothing makes people happier than saying that something tasty is ready for consumption at midnight on a weekday.

So here is a stroll down Drury Lane.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch but almost failed so it was mostly just normal granola

Our trial granola— and a near disaster. The first two weeks of the semester (called “interim”) work on an honor system/volunteer basis while the co-op elects permanent positions for the semester, so Lily and I volunteered to make granola. One of the most important aspects of making granola is using a binding agent, and Lily and I almost always used simple syrup, which is a mixture of equal parts sugar and water combined over heat to thicken the consistency. We mix into the simple syrup spices and other additives to create the flavor of the granola— this step was where disaster struck. We added too much salt, and then spent way too much time trying to fix it by dumping out portions of the simple syrup and adding more sugar and water. The resulting granola was not quite as cinnamon-y or sugary as we would have liked it, but for a first attempt at granola, it certainly wasn’t bad.

Here Comes the Sun Granola (sun being sunflower butter)

Another week of being interim granola makers, and our second try was much more successful! Our concept was Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, but make it granola. This granola was glorious, clearly tasting both of chocolate and sunflower butter, and there were no binder mishaps. It was quite sugary, so it wasn’t the best for an early morning breakfast, but it was great for a late night snack.

Do You Know the Muffin Man? Granola

In celebration of interim ending and us being elected permanent granola makers, Lily and I created the muffin's cooler, hotter cousin: fruity muffin granola. We mixed raspberry spread and orange spread into the granola before baking, and added dried blueberries and cranberries at the end. Adding dried fruit to granola is a major game changer, and it was, very simply, the key to this granola’s success.

Megan and Lily sit on a table, posing with their muffin man granola. Each holds a scoop of granola, and Megan is also holding the lid. They are smiling
Muffin man granola! Note: PhotoBooth pictures began this week because it was the first time we knew we wuold be making granola on a regular basis.

Gingerbread Granola

Run, run, run, as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man! This granola was part two of our Shrek themed granolas, and was probably my favorite granola we made the whole semester. However, it also taught us that molasses is the stickiest substance known to humankind, and the road to serving this beauty was a long one. It was a masterpiece, though, tasting heartily of molasses, ginger, and other spices we incorporated, and like we told the co-op in our announcement email, eating it was like eating the bricks of a gingerbread house.

Megan and Lily sit on a table with their closed container of granola.Both girls have their legs crossed, and Lily's arms are also crossed. The two gaze solemnly into the camera.
Gingerbread construction workers at work.

Red-velvet-esque Granola

A tasty one, but it did look a bit garish. We made chocolate granola and then mixed in melted white chocolate with red food coloring. It looked like more of a pink than a red, and the chocolate wasn’t glossy, so it looked somewhat questionable, but it was enjoyable! Another sugary granola, it was good for dessert or a late night snack.

Megan and Lily sit on the tasty things table in Fairchild, holding their uncovered container of granola and tilting it toward the camera. They are smiling.
Red velvet granola: more photogenic from a distance

London Fog Granola

When we got the email that we were getting sent home, we made this one— making granola is a good coping mechanism. This one might have also been our most innovative granola; it was inspired by London Fog, the beverage, which is a favorite at The Local, my favorite coffee shop in Oberlin. We steeped dozens of earl grey tea bags in hot water before mixing in sugar and vanilla extract to make it a flavored simple syrup. At the end we mixed in dried blueberries, which was our own personal spin on the London Fog concept. Lily’s favorite was a tie between this one and the gingerbread, and I agree it was truly fabulous. It tasted like a real London Fog, and was a really good way to end our time in the co-op.

Megan and Lily sit on the tasty things table with their covered container of London Fog granola. For the first time, they are wearing hairnets and aprons in the picture. The joy of spending a semester making granola for their beloved co-op is apparent on their smiling faces.
London Fog granola: our swan song


Some of our plans that didn’t get to come to fruition included a chai spice granola and a matcha with freeze-dried strawberries granola. Our granola was always well received, and I think these flavors would have been no exception. It’s really nice to make something people enjoy, and have a good time doing it; granola is just oats with lots of added ingredients, so it’s fun to take something really simple and experiment with it in lots of ways. I miss you Fairkid. And I miss making granola. 

[Continued in part two]

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