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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Porridge

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word porridge, first seen in the 16th century, may be a variant of pottage or porray, both types of stew or broth.

The term is often used specifically for oat porridge (called oatmeal in the U.S. and parts of Canada), which is eaten for breakfast with salt, sugar, milk, cream, or butter, and sometimes other flavorings

A bowl of oat porridge By Nillerdk - Own work, Wikipedia Commons

Breakfast for most Ancient Greeks was a hot porridge made from cereal.

The majority of the population in the Roman Empire, especially in its early days, lived on pulmentum, a porridge of barley, chickpeas or emmer wheat flour. It was made by roasting, and pounding the grain then cooking it in a large cauldron. Sometimes it was diluted with milk and it was accompanied by bread, fish or ground pine nuts.

The Vikings' first meal of the day was called "dagveror". It was a porridge consisting of a mixture of barley and rye cereals.

During Columbus' fourth voyage, his crew waited until nightfall before tucking into their meal of crumbled-biscuit porridge, so that they wouldn't see the worms.

An English visitor to Scotland in the early 17th century described a "pottage" made of oatmeal flour, boiled in water and eaten with butter, milk or ale. This meal, which was to become known as porridge had many regional variations in Scotland and was either served at breakfast or as the main course at lunch or dinner.

Porridge by William Hemsley (1893)

Traditionally, Scots porridge should be served in a wooden bowl and stirred with a wooden stick.

The wooden porridge stirrer is called a spurtle. The Golden Spurtle is the trophy for the annual World Porridge Making Championships in Carrbridge.

Porridge was commonly used as prison food for inmates in the British prison system, and so "doing porridge" became a slang term in the early 1950s for a jail sentence.

Nelson Mandela's favorite breakfast was plain porridge, with fresh fruit and fresh milk.


The Scottish firm Baxters is best known for its tinned soups. One rare failure for the company was its canned porridge, which was discontinued after just a few months on the shelves in the 1960s.

Source Daily Express, Food for Thought by Ed Pearce

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