I first took notice of muesli when I was young, maybe 10? I was reading Sharon Creech's "Walk Two Moons", and there's a fantastic dinner scene where a picky guest is relegated to eating a dry bowl of muesli. At the time, I had a vague understanding that muesli was like granola, or Kashi, and while I have been a lifelong fan of eating dry cereal, it was clear from the book that dry muesli was not an enjoyable sort of meal. I also formed the association of muesli to long-bearded hippies wearing earth sandals and carrying nature sticks.
While in Bali last year, our hostess recommended a little restaurant just down the beach, saying she absolutely loved their muesli (Bircher-Benner!). We went, we ate, we equally enjoyed. After we got back to the States, I looked up the Bircher-Benner recipe on Wikipedia, noted how it's proportionally opposite to what's mostly eaten today– far more fruit to grains– and carried on with my life. I was having a tremendous love affair with the Maple Frosted Shredded Wheat cereal at Trader Joe's, and there simply wasn't any room in my world for another cereal.
A few months later, we ended up in Europe for 10 weeks. Europe, sadly, does not have a Trader Joe's, and what's more, they are very deficient in shredded wheat, frosted or otherwise (there was plain Nabisco shredded wheat in London, which I ate dry, to everyone's horror). However! London had Weetabix! Having never eaten Weetabix before (I'd read about it in the Babysitter's Club books, when the Australian family that had that son whom Mallory got all super-crushy over moved into the neighborhood), this was a glorious find for me and I dove in head-first.
Then we continued on to Amsterdam, and while perusing the tiny selection of cereals in an Albert Heijn, I decided to shake things up and go with muesli alongside the Weetabix. And then we got to Berlin, where there was no Weetabix (except at one organic earth-happy convenienvce sort of store), so that's when I really, really got into serious bran cereal. And then, for the rest of the trip, we started every single morning with the same breakfast: a bowl of muesli, bran (Noah wasn't as keen on the bran as I was), soymilk (almond when I could find it, which was only once in Sorrento), and yogurt. Every. Single. Morning.
And I never got tired of it. Sometimes we would have it for lunch as well, if we were stuck on a long train ride. There was even one night when we were taking a ferry from Croatia to Italy and ended up having this for lunch, dinner, and breakfast, and IT WAS STILL AMAZING. Other meals occasionally disappointed, but the muesli never let me down.
Since November, I've been experimenting with different eating habits, and my most recent iteration is vegan, gluten-free, no processed sugars (minimal natural sugars) and minimal grains. I was really hoping to go completely grain-free, but then I found a recipe for gluten-free muesli– and that hope has just completely flown out the window since.
What I ultimately made was a modified recipe, but eating it in the morning is like being back in Europe. Which admittedly was far from a glorious expedition, but nostalgia cleverly elbows out all the negative components and showcases everything else in a radiating golden light. To put it another way, when I eat muesli, I am the happiest pig in the prettiest mud puddle this side of Denton.
It's to the point where I long for mornings, for that shining moment when I get to have my small bowl of muesli. I look forward to it the way kids look forward to Christmas or their birthdays–sometimes, I contemplate going to sleep earlier just to make the morning come faster, thus bringing my muesli time into existence that much sooner.
I know the dangers of nostalgia; I don't deny that many, many parts of that trip were an absolute hell. But the muesli was always perfect, and I like the peaceful memories it invokes. So grains be damned– I plan on making (and eating) this for quite some time.