According to a Parade Magazine (May 27, 2012) article, “Born in the USA” by Jane and Michael Stern, granola was a product of the Civil War. James Caleb Jackson, a nutrition crusader, baked sheets of whole-wheat flour, crumbled it, then re-baked the crumbles as nuggets he called granola. John Harvey Kellogg added oats and cornmeal and began marketing it as granola cereal.
It gained favor as a health snack by the hippie movement of the 1960s. Today it remains a breakfast staple, although there are as many variations on granola as there are for chili. I favor Lizzie Symon’s recipe (available at cookingchanneltv.com). It has my favorite ingredients: oats, nuts, coconut, cinnamon, honey, extra virgin olive oil, and (optional) dried cherries.
Making my own granola reminded me of plotting a story. Hey, I’m a writer. Everything circles back to storytelling. Stay with me here. You can take a basic recipe and switch up the ingredients for a new version.
Same with writing. You can have a revenge plot and write any number of stories with just a sprinkle of new ingredients (Hamlet, or Death Wish).
You can have an underdog story (Cinderella) and turn it into many new stories by altering the ingredients a bit (Pretty Woman, A Woman of Substance). Another popular plot, forbidden love, has spawned many stories (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, West Side Story, Romeo and Juliet, and Tristan and Isolde).
Hollywood recycles stories all the time, and it works when the film brings a fresh look at the story. The wonderful Cowboys & Aliens is a retelling of Independence Day, which is a retelling of War of the Worlds. Apocalypse Now is Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness set in Southeast Asia instead of the Congo. And how many versions of A Christmas Carol have you seen?
After you eat a serving of your healthful homemade granola, get back to the keyboard. Take a favorite plot and what-if your way into a fresh version of an old story.