Passion and the Predicament.
I have always loved porridge. I remember having it as
small boy, my mother would make it for my breakfast, preparing it with milk and
with either Lyle’s Golden Syrup to sweeten it or a sprinkling of sugar, a topping
I would be reminded of years later when I discovered Crème Brulee . She would
tell me reassuringly how my creamy porridge would keep me warm in winter, she
would tell me this as she sent me out of the door to walk to school in short
trousers in December’s biting wind, frost and ice. I enjoyed the porridge but
was forever sceptical about my mother’s belief in its thermal properties !
Years later, with long trousers and a home of my own I
entered the Golden Age of Porridge, I learned to prepare it with water and to
sweeten it with honey, but most importantly I had the box of porridge all to
myself because no one else in my house thought porridge was actually a type of
food, my children were young and they preferred cereals with some sort of sweet
frosty coating, or a cereal so chocolaty that the milk would turn a disgusting
brown colour (which made them love it even more), or in fact any cereal at all
that included inside the box some kind of plastic vehicle or super hero, by
comparison they seemed to think of porridge as something of a punishment.
During those years of being in complete porridge control I would know with
confidence how much porridge oats were in my box, I would know when supplies
were dwindling. Alas times have changed, the Golden Age is just a fond memory
now, my wife discovered that my gently milled organic oats can be made into a
rather tasty Flapjack and my middle son who is a gym-bunny and a picture of
fitness, heard about all of porridge’s health benefits. So the Golden Age has truly
passed, now I have to share my box of porridge with part of my family.
My porridge comes in a box from a local Cheshire miller.
The family that mills my organic oats can trace their history in milling back
15 generations to 1675 when they established their first mill in Cheshire, so
they really do know their oats. As they are a local supplier with the simplest
of recycled packaging (just a box nothing more inside) this makes my porridge
quite ‘green’. Fortunately this is ‘green’ in the modern sense of the word
rather than the old fashioned colour sense of the word as green porridge would
be as appetising to me as that chocolaty milk my children used to love so much.
I have very few carbon footprints in my porridge, again metaphorical footprints,
which is reassuring because they too would look unsightly in my creamy
porridge, would probably taste awful and are likely to be unsanitary.
A few days ago I suffered a Particularly Problematic
Porridge Predicament which really brought home the fact that those golden days
of porridge are definitely gone. In future I will have to be sure to have a spare
full box of porridge at all times!
Being of an engineering bent and being blessed with a
minor helping of OCD, I make my porridge in exactly the same way every day, a
process that doesn’t change should always give the same results. So I weigh out
my gently milled organic oats, I could of course go completely crazy and use my
wife’s modern digital scales but I prefer the old brass weights on the balance,
I don’t need to be too accurate and I find the analogue approach to be more
mellow and satisfying in a morning before my brain has been resurrected by the
day’s first coffee, also I worry about the digital scales getting some sort of
computer virus and infecting my organic oats. Each morning I weigh out one and
a half ounces of milled organic oats and transfer them to a pan, then I have to
mix in the correct amount of water, I could use a measuring jug but of course
you have to be sure you are holding it level or the calibration is off so there
is a possibility of ending up with soggy porridge or porridge you could slice.
To combat this, I use a cup, always the same size cup (we have eight of them so
I am future proofed in case of accidental breakage) and I fill this cup to the
brim with water (forcing me to hold it level), then transfer that to the pan,
even allowing for a few dribbles of spillage I still get the right amount of
water every time. I always cook my porridge in a pan, my son, being a modern
man uses the impersonal microwave, even though I have a little washing up to do
by using the pan I think this method is better, I feel more connected to the
porridge and to the process, I can watch it cooking as I continuously stir it and
make any slight adjustments to the process as might be necessary due to the
prevailing conditions of atmospheric pressure, room temperature and relative
humidity, in a microwave you wait for the ping and then have to eat what you
are offered !
A couple of days ago I began this daily ritual. I immediately
feared the situation was critical as I carried the box of gently milled organic
oats to the scales, my heart sank and disappointment began to take hold, years
of porridge making give you a feel for the minimum allowable weight of the box,
I just knew that box was perilously close to that minimum threshold. My
nightmare was confirmed when the free flow of oats from the box started to
dwindle and those precious oats already nestling, all too lightly, in the pan
on the scale had not yet begun to lift the counter-balancing brass weights on
the other side of the scale, I could feel the box was now only offering the
last of the oats which were caught in the corners around the hole, the hole
through which they should still be creamily cascading into the pan. There
really were no more gently milled organic porridge oats in the box, I was short of oats
and breakfast had become a porridge predicament !
I could tell I had ‘almost’ the full quota of oats but
still I knew I was short, ‘almost’ enough is the same as ‘not’ enough, if I put
in the same amount of water as normal then I was assured of a bowl full of
slushy porridge. The engineer side of me briefly toyed with the idea of risking
a harmful virus and switching to the digital scales, calculating the percentage
I was below the target weight and then tipping the water from a full cup into a
level measuring jug and deducting a similar percentage of water, but I quickly
realised I might have to recalculate the cooking time which raised the
question, would it have to be cut by the same percentage amount ? would it remain the same ? I was in porridge
purgatory and I wasn’t prepared to boldly go where no man ought to have gone
After some thought, a little stress and disappointment, I
realised the best resolution to the dilemma was to be kind and give the
insufficient portion of gently milled organic oats to the birds in the garden.
I watched with some sadness as first a Collared Dove and
then a Wood Pigeon came to feed on the oats as I was reduced to chewing on a
piece of toast and honey !
Lesson learned, I now have two spare boxes of porridge in
the cupboard, those flapjackers and microwavers are not going to catch me out a
second time and ruin another start to the day !!