Material Object: Tom Bannister
As told to Joshua David Stein. Illustrations by Lucilla Tubaro.
What's the most important item in your home? In our series Material Object, we explore that very question, asking some of our favorite people which of their possessions connect them to their past, to their family, and to themselves.
Over the last four years, I’ve made 22 different granolas. What I’ve learned, through endless experimentation, is that the small details matter. Everything from the depth of the granola to the tray to the ratio -- 6:1 -- of the dry ingredients to the wet has a huge effect on the end product. And the key to small details is being able to accurately measure them. So if I had to choose one heartbeat of the operation, it’s my measuring cup. It’s not fancy. It’s basically just a large plastic mug that measures just over three cups. But it is immensely meaningful for me because without it, I wouldn’t be able to experiment or to create.
I began making granola for fun with my children -- Ren and Tao -- during the pandemic. (Our youngest, River, is a little too young to help measure.) I’d film us making the granola and post it on Instagram. When I first began making granola, it was naturally just a hobby. I had my hands full with my day job as an advertising producer.
"Over the last four years, I’ve made 22 different granolas. What I’ve learned, through endless experimentation, is that the small details matter."
When I began my wife, Eva [Chen] got me this simple measuring cup. There are fancier measuring cups out there but none as good. What I love about this one is that the markings are etched into plastic so they can’t wear off. It’s large enough and not too dainty so my kids can use it to pour. I’ve tried others -- a glass measuring cup, a traditional oval one -- but I can never abandon this humble original. If I was a record producer, the measuring cup would be my percussion.
Now that I make granola full time, everything is riding on the small details. Even though I use a commercial kitchen to manufacture the granola, the creation of it, the experimentation, still unfolds in our home kitchen. And I still rely on my trusty old cup, simple though it is, to take an accurate and precise measure of my progress.