But in Australia, something happened. For one, I stopped taking architecture courses and stopped pulling all-nighters. Aside from unthinkable cloud formations and Centennial Park at daybreak, I also credit my job – as a waitress at Sloane's on Oxford in the artsy, wrought-iron-accented suburb of Paddington – with turning me into a morning person. I had to show up at 6 to squeeze a few buckets of orange juice and serve date-pecan scones to our earliest customers, and I'm pretty sure it was their Bircher meusli that helped me realize life could be dreamy before noon.
Meusli, I quickly learned, is the Australian (or European) term for granola. Usually, it's plain untoasted oats, nuts, and dried fruit, and sometimes they mix it with yogurt. This version is fair enough, but requires an unbecoming amount of teeth-gnashing to digest.
Bircher's ingenious component is an overnight soak of the oats, nuts, & raisins (charmingly referred to as "sultanas" by Aussies, who deftly cutesify just about everything) in apple juice. I swear I'm as unenthusiastic as the average eater about dried out SunMaids, and I promise that the rehydration process eliminates raisins' resemblance to rat turds. They'll become bright fruity jewels by morning.
So. For the batch in the photo, I had rolled oats on hand that I combined with trail mix containing raisins, dried cranberries, almonds and pepitas. (Other possibilities are dried coconut flakes, pecans, and chopped dried apples or pears.) Recipes say the ratio is 1/2 a cup of juice to every cup of oats, but I just layer the dry ingredients in a wide, flat container and pour until the nuts and grains can slosh around a little – not quite as drenched as cereal in milk. Grate some cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or fresh ginger into the mix. Cover and ignore while you snooze.
Early the next day, leap from your bed and run to the fridge where the meusli awaits, newly infused with tangy apple sweetness. Stir in an almost equal amount of yogurt. I went with Redwood Hill Farms plain, but Greek style or fruit-flavored varieties can be equally smashing. (After a spare, leafy lunch at the Tate Modern's overpriced cafe in London a few years back, I happened upon currant-yogurt Bircher in a tiny take-away shop, and would've danced for joy if I hadn't been busy scowling at the exchange rate.)
Finally, chop up and add whatever fresh fruit is rolling around in your fruit bowl. In my case, I refer to the fruit region of my countertop, which was harboring this Black Arkansas apple. I bought it at the Ferry Building because I find it beautiful in a slightly sinister way, like the flocks of bats (aka flying foxes) that take wing on spring and summer evenings in Sydney.
Fresh, creamy, crunchy and fruity, there's simply not a better bowl of breakfast on this continent.