The Power of Porridge

I can’t bear the taste of porridge but there is something about the ritual of making it that is like a mixture between a security blanket and an intimate dance.

This morning was one of those mornings when it seemed only right to offer to make porridge as hubby was heading off for a consultation about his beyond excruciating back pain and associated sciatica.

Father would have had the oats steeping since last night as he insisted that freshly made porridge wasn’t a patch on that made from the well-soaked oats. How often I sat at the kitchen table chatting to him as he carefully measured out the cup of  Flahavan’s oats and two and a half cups of water and readied the lot in the ‘porridge pot’ on the front right ring on the cooker. He’d even get the wooden spoon out of the drawer and have it laid in readiness for morning.

As a kid, I used to sit up on the high stool and stir the porridge and have it simmering and bubbling, oh so gently, for Father when he’d arrive into the kitchen, making sure there were no kinks in his braces. I’d also have collected the bottles of milk from the doorstep and placed one by his place.

Roles reversed now, he’d sit at the kitchen table as I carefully spooned out the porridge into his big blue and white willow patterned plate.

He’d have removed the tin cap from the milk bottle and would pour the creamy bit onto the porridge which he’d have lavished with a couple of dessert spoons of castor sugar.  I knew that the dance was done when The Irish Times rose as a papery barrier between us.

Mother was a porridge person too but had a much less ritualised approach to it. No that’s not true, really, and that became very obvious when she was convalescing from a major operation and had hired the services of a ‘housekeeper’ for the first crucial week at home.  On Evening I, the housekeeper went to Mother’s room to get her order for breakfast. I was there perched on her bed,  all excited to have her home!

Mother said to the middle-aged woman: I’d like a small plate of porridge with a drop of milk and salt. I’m half Scottish. And a pot of tea, please. 

The housekeeper repeated: Yes, Mrs Tubridy: that’ll be porridge, tea and a half Scotch. 

Words never forgotten! I wondered this morning if I should have given hubby a half  or even a full Scotch with his porridge and insisted on driving him to his appointment!




Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

23 thoughts on “The Power of Porridge”

  1. I went out hunting with a friend a few times and heading off at dawn a whisky bottle was handed around (for warmth you see) and we would intone “Lord save us and protect us we’re drinking whisky for breakfast.” I have to say I found it preferable to porridge… though I love this post.

  2. Thank you Jean for your lighthearted reflections on porridge! Being (full) Scottish I like salt as well as sugar in my porridge. Can’t stand whiskey though!
    When I read your posts it takes me down my own memory lane. Do you still have milk in bottles? I remember getting up early to get it before the sparrows pecked through to the cream on top,
    Val x

  3. Perhaps it’s the texture of the porridge you don’t care for. Most of the guests who come to my house from the British Isles do not care for hot cereals–oatmeal, grits, polenta, or cream of wheat. One said he didn’t like the way it feels in the mouth. They usually prefer potatoes fried up as a compliment to eggs, and a muffin. I will eat all of those foods, including the potatoes, and be happy about it.

    Yes, a Scotch or an Irish Whiskey would be dandy as candy to round out the coffee, as tea will have to wait for later in the day. But no half-measure, please. A full serving of it will make the taste and feel of the porridge to become indifferent. Double the Whiskey, and soggy toast will suffice for the morning’s grain yet undistilled.

    Hope your husband’s issue with sciatica becomes less troublesome. A few years back, my mother noticed me having a slight limp at a family gathering. She inquired about it. I told her I had an inflamed sciatic nerve, and that with a little physical therapy I’d soon be fine. The next day, my sister called, laughing. She’d spoken with Mom who told her I was having trouble with my “psychotic” nerve. Though she never really understood, I think my mother was very close to the truth.

  4. Here I am skimming though posts and only liking but I had to stop and comment here. You brought back such vivid memories. Every morning at 4.30am my dad would be in the kitchen making his porridge ( Scots Porridge Oats) sometimes I would awake early and creep downstairs and join him. The kitchen was probably the only warm place in the house at time of the morning mum and all my brothers and sisters up yet! He made his porridge wuth water and salt ( I make mine with skimmed milk and saltanas) . The joy of having a spoonful or two of Dad’s glue remains with me . Before he left for work at 5am he would carry me upstairs and put me back to bed!
    Thanks for the beautiful post… more imprortantly how dd your husband get on. ? xxxxxx

    1. Willow, I just love the picture you paint of those precious times shared with your father and him carrying you back to bed.

      Still a waiting game re Hubby to see how well the procedure has worked. Fingers crossed!

        1. Oh now, I like the sound of brown sugar and cinnamon on it. This may mark a new beginning!
          I should ‘confess’ here, if that’s the word, that I eat raw oats for breakfast, with whatever fruit is seasonal.

  5. I hope your husband got the back pain sorted. Bad back pain is an awful thing.
    I loved your story about the porridge and I remember the milk in the bottles with the cream on top.
    You are stirring up some nice memories.
    We have porridge every morning and we make it the night before and then heat it up in the morning. We use all milk with sugar or honey to sweeten it.
    I think the Scots use a thing called a spurtle to stir their porridge!
    This is not an ad but Flahavans is the best of all porridges.
    Thanks Jean I really enjoyed that.

  6. Jean
    What an amazing coincidence, here I was eating my first bowl of porride of the autumn and there you were reminiscing about it. Ah, I remember the ‘proper’ milk. It came from the cow without a great deal of technological intervention….those were the days! I wish I had the patience to make it the night before but I’m afraid at the moment I’m an instant packet girl. (Hangs head).

    I holidayed at a wonderful hotel in Torridon in the Scottish HIghlands a few years ago and the porridge came with 2 pitchers – one of cream and one of whisky. I wasn’t entirely sure if I should indulge first thing in the morning, but when in Rome…

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