What is it exactly? Porridge, porage, pottage, oatmeal, oats, grits, gruel, rolled oats… all of the above? The status of porridge in recent years has been exalted from workhouse sludge to the latest health fad, but is there more to these precious flakes of gluten than meets the eye?
Porridge can be the breakfast of champions, the lunch of kings, the supper of heroes, for while the chilly blasts of February grind away at our epidermis, porridge can keep our stomachs churning in warm delight. It’s not just good for your heart, but a pan of blipping porridge is invariably good for the soul, too. But are all porridges created equal? Certainly not. Like anything in life, you get out what you put in. If you revise for an exam, you’ll most likely pass, if you remember to check your parachute, you’ll most likely survive the fall, if you water your plant, it might survive the night, however, is there anything more depressing than the sight of a sachet of instant oats? Not for me. Those poor oats were never meant to be crammed into a vacuum-packed envelope and chucked into a backpack so the owner can scoop them out whenever they please. Oats, like puppies, like children, like delicate orchids, need love.
They are the blank canvas to which anyone can daub their Picasso, be it blueberries, jam, cinnamon, chocolate spread, Marmite, apple sauce, whatever the heart desires. Whenever I’m spotted hovering over a pan of gently bubbling coarse oatmeal (let’s be specific) I’m often asked, is it worth it? Is it worth a good 20-30 minutes of my time to nurture my oatmeal, to make sure it reaches exactly the right consistency, to add honey, vanilla, to mix up my 100% peanuts peanut butter and add just the right amount of pink Himalayan salt, and when it’s perfect, to wait for a tentatively appearing skin to form before placing the peanut butter lovingly on top? Yes, of course. Because life can’t be measured out by marks on a packet, or be followed by instructions on a box, every bowl is different, like every new day, and if porridge nirvana is achieved, it can galvanise you through a tough morning of lectures, a long evening’s revision, even line your stomach for a night of alco-frolicking.
Take it from me, porridge is the food of the gods, worth not only a generous investment of time, but the attention to achieve perfection. After all, perfection is not about adding boiling water to a single serving of scented dust, it’s about the way there, the burnt pans, the spilled milk, the creative ideas that never panned out but made you do better next time, perfection is knowing how you got where you are, and enjoying your steaming bowl of ambrosia all the more.