What does it take to be a champion?
If you’re Wout van Aert, becoming a champion is the product of many things: Endless hours of arduous training; God-given physical gifts; beating big dogs like Mathieu van der Poel and Peter Sagan; having an extremely cool and stylish haircut. The list goes on and on.
You know what else it takes, apparently? Eating a hearty — if somewhat foul — breakfast every morning.
Kudos to our colleagues at Rouleur magazine in the U.K. for unearthing the recipe to Wout van Aert’s famous ‘Champion Oats’ in the latest print issue. I caught wind of Wout’s unorthodox oatmeal recipe after it was widely distributed on the Twittersphere alongside the ‘I’m gonna be sick’ emoji.
You see, Wout van Aert’s stomach-turning oats buck the traditional — and correct — perception that oatmeal is a dish best served sweet, with sugary flavors provided by fresh fruit, honey, granola, peanut butter, and other staples. Full disclosure: I’m an oatmeal purist, and on most mornings I consume a heaping bowl of basic instant oats topped with strawberries, walnuts, and raisins.
And I’m no champion — look no further than my dismal Strava times as proof. Are my basic, dull-as-dishwater oats to blame? Perhaps. Champions, it would appear, are all about disrupting the oatmeal status quo, because Wout’s oats are a savory, broth-infused pile of steaming mush topped with a fried egg and cheese.
Yep, Wout van Aert’s oats Do. Not. Mess. Around.
After reading the recipe I became consumed by the notion of cooking and then eating Wout’s nasty oats, as a way to test my taste buds and GI tract. Am I a champion? I was determined to find out. And earlier this week I finally got my chance.
Let me tell you, it did not go well.
Cooking the gross oats
Luckily, procuring the ingredients for Wout’s gut-busting oats was simple, and I found everything I needed at my local organic market. The only wildcard in the equation was, alas, the secret sauce for the whole operation: plant-based bouillon/stock powder. I imagine that the final flavor of your own pile of Wout’s gruel will depend heavily on the brand/make/model of veggie bouillon found at your local supermarket.
After some searching, I located the sole brand of powdery vegetable-based bouillon cubes carried by my local store and purchased them. ‘Hope these things don’t taste like dog food,’ I muttered as I checked out.
The beauty of oatmeal is its simplicity to cook, and Wout’s ungodly oats were easier to prepare than anticipated. Following the recipe, I heated the almond milk and water in a pan and then stirred in the bouillon cube, making sure to plug my nostrils as the powdery cube disappeared. I don’t know about you, but the very intense aroma of broth is not one I normally smell at 6:45 a.m. Then, I stirred in the oats, fried the egg, and grated some fresh parmesan.
I’d say the whole thing took about 10 minutes to prepare, and I accomplished the cooking while also helping my 16-month-old search for her lost Abby Cadabby doll. So, Wout’s gnarly oats were extremely easy to make.
A tsunami of au jus
I stared at the untouched bowl of stinky oats and marveled at the appetizing collection of colors. Beige mush topped with a yellow fried egg, alongside green sliced avocado and white slivers of Parmesan — not a bad color palette by any means. And, to be honest, the first few bites were not displeasing.
Sure, it was a tad jarring to bite into the familiar warm and gooey mass of oatmeal and be greeted by the overpowering flavor of broth. Memories flashed through my brain, and I was transported back to the third grade, dipping my hot lunch French Dip sandwich into a watery au jus sauce served in a styrofoam cup.
Aha, I had located the flavor.
Here’s the thing about the elementary school French Dip of your memories— it’s a flavor best served in a bite or two, and not in a breakfast bowl. And after a few bites, my mouth began to fatigue on the overpowering taste. I cut into the egg and swirled an avocado slice into the runny yolk, hoping to balance out the powerful soup vibes. It was to no avail — the bouillon cube I had used apparently was a 10 megaton soup bomb. And every bite of my oatmeal was like gargling a bucket of au jus.
Hey, I gave it my best shot. I made it through half of the concoction and then took a break. I forced a few more bites down and then slumped in my chair. Alas, I was not a champion.
A Karate kick to the duodenum
As it turns out, cooking and then eating Wout’s nauseating oats was just part of the fun. Champion’s oats are an experience that lasts all day.
My assumption is that Wout van Aert downs a piping hot bowl of brothy oats, laces up his cycling shoes, and goes and rides for five hours in a bone-chilling Flemish rainstorm. As Wout pushes 400 watts into a headwind, his magical oatmeal warms him from the inside out, much like a glowing ball of Uranium 235 heats a thermonuclear reactor.
Unlike Wout, I do not spend all day riding outdoors. And after consuming my oats, I retreated to my home office, closed the door, and then parked my butt in a chair for a long day of Zoom calls and emails. It did not go well, and I’ll save you the gory details. Let’s just say I probably should have kept the door open — or brought in a box fan.
What did I learn from this culinary experiment? I already knew that Wout van Aert was a true athletic specimen with a world-class set of legs and lungs. We can add Wout’s stomach and intestines to the list of world-class physical attributes.
I also learned that a champion’s oats are a meal best served to a champion. If eating a hearty breakfast was a race, then Wout van Aert is world champion, and I’m still a Cat 3.