11 May 2010

Granola bars

In history classes throughout my time growing up, I remember the ideal of the self-made man in American history. This came into play in the frontier states and with pioneers, in stories of successful businessmen, and, of course, the background of politicians. This idea is something that is almost ingrained into the core of American values and yes, Weber was a big influence on me. (Name that book!)
Certainly the idea is still around in American society- people will exemplify those who worked hard and made something of themselves, those who did things for themselves. Isn't that the American dream itself- the ability to come from nothing, work hard, do things of your own accord and abilities to be a success?

I know that in my family and definitely with me, I try to live by this ideal. I try to work hard, to take action, to take responsibility and do things on my own. I am finding in London that this ideal does not permeate society as much. In the UK, I think the self-made man ideal has only recently, in the past 60 years or so, entered into society in an meaningful way. Perhaps the rigid class structure and societal influences held sway in keeping this ideal out, plus only the recent influx of the US culture, and it does not have the history behind the ideal as it does in the US.
I was thinking about this ideal because I recently made my own granola bars. I have never tried this and always bought them from the store. To be honest, it did not occur to me that granola bars were something to make at home. Granola bars just seemed to be one of those things you take for granted and they always come in a pre-packaged form. Well, to me at least.
After making the bars, or many things from scratch as I often do, some people will ask how I made them, with a comment about how they could never make the item at hand. Maybe it is my American self-made man ideal talking, but I cook and bake by a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of way. I work hard, use my resources (usually internet recipe searches) and make things myself. And I have a great sense of accomplishment afterwards. It sounds silly, but it's nice to know that is Armageddon comes, I can make my own granola bars, among other things, and be ok. Baking and cooking things from scratch is in some ways a validation that I am a self-made woman, capable of living and being successful on my own.

The greatest thing about the granola bars? They are really easy to make! So if you want to start your own self-made man/woman cooking journey, this is a great place to start.

Mix together 3 cups of various ingredients, whatever you like in your granola bars. I had almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, raisins, cranberries and dried apples, but you could easily throw in some chocolate chips or other fruits and seeds.

The recipe I found has butter and sweetened condensed milk as binding agents. Maybe not the healthiest, but on average per bar it's not so bad. There are good things in them too, so that counts ... right?

Mix it all together and press the mix into a flat pan. I lined mine with parchment paper so clean up is easier. :)

Then bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.

You have to let them cool before cutting or it's like cutting into oatmeal!

Mmmmm, tasty.

The recipe:

3 cups quick-cooking oats

1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

2 Tablespoons melted butter

3-3.5 cups nuts, seeds, berries

Mix all ingredients together and press into a greased or lined flat pan. Bake in a 350 F/175C degree oven for 20-30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool before cutting. Enjoy!


  1. It seems a little convoluted but I was always told that our Protestant work ethic came from ---- Britian. The whole concept of working hard and making your life better has become ingrained and part of the American dream since we were created as a country. The revolutionists believed that our possibilites as a country and a people were endless. The term WASP is also part of this - white Anglo Saxon protestents.

  2. For me a fair portion of Britain is happy to work (directly or indirectly) and be provided for by the state. They are comfortable in their situation and do not have the worries (as many others) of providing for when they are old or in need in of medical care.

    However, many minorities in the UK still hold a similar work ethic to the American Dream with the view to provide for their children/family/community and their inheritence. I think it is something that is borne out of previous hardship and therefore striving to progress and become successful is an adult's perogative.

    PS: More chocolate granola bars please :)

  3. You were smart to use parchment paper in the pan--they would've been hell to get out otherwise. By the way, if you're ever just making granola, be sure to stir it first thing when it comes out of the oven, otherwise it sets up like a rock and you need an ice pick to get it out of the pan. Somehow immediate stirring solves this problem. (Can we tell I actually make granola for a living?...I'm definitely growing into a self-made woman).
    Also, I think you're probably right about the different concepts of the self-made person between the US and the UK--neither social situation is ideal--just different.