Saturday, 19 April 2014

I love my oats!

O is for Oats

(and I love O.J too! )

As I write this post, I’m spooning my porridge as I go. I’ve always been a lover of oatmeal in almost all forms. I love the most basic of porridges- made with simply ground oats, water and with salt added during the cooking process. I also love the more sophisticated ones with rich cream and fruit, and even Glayva added!

If a rougher type of oatmeal was used, my mum popped a portion into a pot with water and soaked it overnight. When it came to the cooking process, around twenty minutes of simmering at ‘a plop’, she added a little salt. Only a tiny touch of milk might be added before eating, and that was mainly to cool it down rather than to flavour. Sometimes it was my dad who did the preparation of the porridge if he fancied having some for breakfast the next morning.

decadent with milk and jam!
I still like my porridge cooked with water and salt. I also loved the cold remains if too much porridge was cooked. Thick porridge was the common cook, so when any totally cold remains were left in the pot there would be a shiny skin to the slab of cold porridge when it was scooped out. Not many people liked that format, but I loved it!

I could easily see the old tale working well in the crofts around Scotland in earlier times. The story goes like this…

Sometimes it was difficult to keep the oatmeal fresh if the storage place was damp and cold, the results being fusty oats or meal that was totally inedible. A method of getting around that, and to ensure the family didn't starve, was to have a very large pot cooked at the beginning of a week. It was allowed to cool and then laid into a kist (a wooden chest) or into the drawer of a chest of drawers. Each morning the woman of the house cut out a slab of porridge and reheated it for that morning’s meal, leaving the remainder for the rest of the week. I can see that working well when only water is used during the cooking process, though not so well if milk is used.

It's also interesting to note that as well as porridge that bottom drawer was often used for the 'bairn'. Now it would have made a nice wee cot for a young baby ...but with porridge in it as well??? The mind boggles.  Maybe not. 

Today, I still eat porridge every other day but I admit to being lazy sometimes. I mostly use the microwave to cook it- sometimes from the convenience packaging that’s now available for oatmeal with different flavourings (syrup, blueberries, honey…)which I never would have used years ago even if they had been available. Still, every now and then, I get a hankering for just ordinary normal porridge and simmer it on the burner. 

I also use rolled oats as a covering for fish, sometimes for chicken fillets, or for potatoes when making croquettes or similar balled potatoes.

Oats are higher in protein than is perhaps thought by many people and they give slow release energy. I personally can feel the difference on days when I have porridge as compared to other cereals (often wheat based). By mid- morning I feel I need to snack if I’ve had something like ‘cornflakes’, or even some muesli, but with porridge oats I last much longer.
In my Celtic Fervour Series of novels, my warriors of Garrigill eat porridge as part of their staple diet. In books 2 & 3 my Roman soldiers have their frumentum (my F is for Frumentum post for this challenge) which in the far north may have been in the form of oats since that was more commonly grown in northern Britannia. Wheat crops don’t naturally grow very well in cold rainy climates with short seasons. If the climate of AD 71 northern Britannia was anything like it is now in Scotland, then growing many types of wheat would have been a challenge. It is known that some forms of emmer wheat were grown, but if oats and barley grew more readily then I feel confident in suggesting there would have been more supplies of the latter two for the Roman Empire to purloin as their ‘dues’ from the Celtic tribes of the north.  

Oats were grown to feed the horses as well as people so that was another reason for producing oat crops. I'm sure the Roman army, who had a need to feed a lot of animals- horses and mules- would have been pleased to acquire the oat crops from the Celtic farmers of northern Britannia who were forcibly subsumed into the Roman Empire.  

Do you love your oats? 

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