Porridge is a food which is made with a cereal, usually oats. The oats are boiled in water or milk, or both. It is usually served hot in a bowl or dish. Some people like to add things to their porridge such as sugar or syrup.
Porridge is a traditional food in many countries in Northern Europe. It is usually eaten for breakfast. In some countries barley or other grains may be used. Porridge can be cooked in saucepans or in a microwave. Traditionally, it may be cooked in large metal kettles over hot coals.
Porridge is often given to people who are ill because it is nourishing and it is easy to eat.
Gruel is similar to porridge but is much more like a drink. It is not as nice as porridge, it is made with water. It was eaten by poor people in Victorian times. Oliver Twist, in the famous book by Charles Dickens, is given gruel to eat.
History[change | change source]
Porridge was one of the first dishes the human race learned how to make. This early kind of porridge would be made with water or milk, and grain. It is thought that porridge helped the future of the human race. In the Early Stone Age, women would breastfeed children to about five or six because the rough vegetation and meat was too tough for their weak teeth. Because children could eat porridge, women stopped breastfeeding earlier.
It is likely that the first porridge was made of wheat or barley in the Fertile Crescent in around 9000 BC. Hannibal's troops ate porridge before and during their famous crossing of the Alps. When they arrived they destroyed food stocks, causing the locals to eat porridge. As one historian said, "the [ancient]Greeks had meals of two courses; the first a kind of porridge and the second a kind of porridge".
Frumenty was a common meal in medieval times. It was made from wheat boiled in a meat broth. Monks and nuns ate pottage. It is made by boiling onions and leeks in water. During the Napoleonic Wars sailors were fed porridge. This is likely due to its low cost.
Culture and traditions of porridge[change | change source]
Because porridge is one of the most ancient and widespread, it has come to have traditions and culture of its own. Scotland is the place of origin of many of these. For example, the porridge should be stirred with a special stirring stick, called a spurtle. It should also be stirred clockwise to ward off evil spirits. It is customary for porridge to be eaten standing up. Some say this is for readiness in case an enemy should attack during the meal. In certain Scottish households a "porridge drawer" existed. This was a drawer in the kitchen dresser where liquid porridge would be poured in the morning. It would solidify and could be cut into portable pieces to be carried to work and eaten later in the day.