Extra Crispy
February 10, 2017 11:00 am

When it comes to #foodporn, there are a few standard contributions: You have your burgers with cheese dripping down, your lifted noodles, and of course your milkshakes with the entirety of Willy Wonka’s factory on top of them. One unexpected food, however, is climbing the ladder of food porn greatness: oatmeal. Yes, oatmeal, the food famous for being boring. Literally oats cooked in water (or milk if you’re feeling fancy), oatmeal is known for being food for a pitiful Oliver Twist or a “diet food:” something you suffer through instead of enjoy. The search term “how to make oatmeal taste good” yields over 7,000,000 results on Google. Comparing oatmeal to juicy, cheesy burgers seems almost comical, like comparing a donkey to a unicorn.

For a community on Instagram, though, oatmeal is anything but dull. The #oatporn hashtag may be an oxymoron to some, but for creators of these extravagant breakfasts, it’s well-fitting. The tag, which boasts almost 60,000 posts, is a combination of the foodie and fitness accounts on Instagram: It makes a “healthy” food look mouthwatering.

One pioneer of the great oatmeal exploration is Lauren of The Oatmeal Artist. Her blog and her Instagram page @oatmealartist display just that: oatmeal art. Lauren is a plant-based food blogger who says oatmeal was her “gateway” to eating more healthfully. “I was getting into healthy cooking but I had nobody to discuss my adventures with,” she told me.

At first, oatmeal wasn’t her focus. During college,her peers weren’t into her waxing poetic about the “successful vegetarian quinoa chili, the perfect batch of crispy kale chips, or a homemade marinara sauce” she concocted. “To fill that need for connection, I started a food blog,” she said.

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Lauren soon realized, though, that her expertise was in oatmeal. “I felt like I had developed a sense of expertise that I didn’t necessarily have with other types of food, and I was excited by each recipe I came up with,” she said. “That’s how I knew I had found my niche.”

The Oatmeal Artist doesn’t believe there are any limitations to the food. She draws inspiration from recipes of any kind—sweet or savory. “I believe that almost any dish can be transformed into oatmeal,” she said.

Take one look at her blog and Instagram and you can see Lauren’s idea of good oatmeal isn’t merely apples and cinnamon. She puts great care and originality into her recipes—with flavors ranging from persimmon and red bean paste oatmeal to a savory taco oatmeal bowl. Lauren’s food looks just as good as it sounds.

Lauren began the hashtag #oatmealartist on Instagram when sharing her meals. Her photos are often shot from overhead with great lighting and gorgeous cut-up fruit on top of the oats. Other possible  toppings can include coconut shavings, nuts, and even a swirl of peanut butter.

Other food photographers followed Lauren’s lead, and now there are over 10,000 posts with the #oatmealartist tag; virtually all of them are oatmeal bowls that look (almost) too good to eat.

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“I love the #oatporn and #oatmealartist communities on Instagram because many people do not realize how fun and versatile oatmeal is,” Lauren said. “People’s friends comment all the time about how they didn’t know oatmeal could ‘look like that.’”

While some people may still think that oatmeal is boring and tasteless, these hashtags prove otherwise. “I think these communities break that stereotype for those people and show just how satisfying a healthy and otherwise humble dish can be,” Lauren said.

The Oatmeal Artist also makes sure to showcase other “artists’”—called oatmeal enthusiasts —work on her blog. One such Instagram user is Tyler @tylaaeats. Tyler was profiled on Lauren’s blog, where she displayed a week’s worth of oatmeal recipes that would make anyone a convert.

Tyler definitely sees Lauren’s recipes as an inspiration. “There millions of possibilities and I was able to find that out because of Lauren,” she told me.

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Originally, Tyler used social media to connect with others on a weight-loss journey. “During the start of my food diary on Instagram it was about recording and take pictures of what I ate while I tried to lose weight,” she said. “Now it’s more about making healthy food look and taste delicious.”

Like Lauren, Tyler thinks that the hashtags can change non-believers’ minds about oatmeal. “A lot of people tell me oatmeal is boring and bland,” she said. “I use to think like that a long time ago.”

Because of the budding community on Instagram, though, that view is shifting. “More and more people are starting to get creative with their oats,” she said.

Tyler and others’ oatmeal photos marry food porn and being health conscious. They organically encourage others to give oatmeal a chance, complete with pops of color and whimsical toppings. Move over, Wonka milkshakes: there’s a new #foodporn star in town.

This article originally appeared in Extra Crispy.