As a kid growing up in the northeast of Scotland, I didn’t mind the dark winter mornings if my mum said there was porridge for breakfast.
Rolled oats simmered in water and seasoned with nothing more than a pinch of salt at the end of cooking, mum would stir it all with a spurtle — a traditional wooden utensil designed to break up porridge lumps — and tell me her grandma’s stories as she stood over the stove.
I loved hearing about the Highland homes like mine that, just a few generations ago, had ‘porridge drawers’. Farm houses, crofts, student digs… they all stored slabs of cooked oats to be sliced up and served cold, day after day, month after month.
“They wouldn’t know what to think of your fancy porridge,” my mum would laugh as I made a moat of hot milk in my bowl and tossed more and more brown sugar on top of the oats.
But the porridge of my childhood was relatively subdued. No cream or berries or flax seeds to be seen. It makes me wonder what my ancestors would think of porridge today: Banana brûlée, whisky marmalade, and zesty pistachio oatmeal served up at Scotland’s world porridge-making competition each year; the abalone porridge I tried in South Korea; East London cafes serving it with bacon and avocado for £7 a bowl…