Like bagpipes, deep-fried mars bars and kilts, eating porridge is one of those ‘typically’ Scottish clichés that gets bandied about far too often. However in every stereotype there is a grain of truth as Scotland is still to this day one of the largest oat producers in the world.
The health benefits of oat porridge are numerous, including lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of diabetes and even increasing the libido. Or so Contini says.
Learn this and many other little known facts about porridge at the Royal Mile Café with owner (and porridge enthusiast) Carina Contini, who is knowledgeable and passionate about Scotland’s national breakfast dish – even going so far as to say ‘every schoolchild should start the day with a bowl of porridge’.
In this early morning breakfast talk, participants get a hot drink and the chance to sample The Royal Mile café’s delicious creamy porridge with a range of different toppings. Contini starts, though, by giving us a pot of gruel. The grey, lumpy substance is far from appealing; made with only oats and water, it’s very bland. However, this is the staple that has fed Scotland for centuries. In fact, Contini explains, porridge was such an important part of a family’s health and wellbeing that porridge pots were prized objects, often passed down in wills through the generations.
The modern samples are much more appetising, including a traditional salted porridge which (for those who have never tried it savoury before) is just as delicious as the more ordinary (in England anyway) sugared version. As we eat we are given a run down of the social history of porridge, the different ways oats have been produced, stored and cooked, and the various ways it is an inherent and valued part of Scots heritage.
Contini explains porridge is just a word used to describe mixing a cereal with water and that pretty much every culture you can think of has porridge of some kind in its diet, whether it is made from oats or another cereal (such as maize, barley or polenta). But the health benefits of oat porridge in particular are numerous, including lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of diabetes and even increasing the libido. Or so Contini says; I’m a little dubious about the last one.
The talk reveals that the history of porridge is far more rich and complex than is commonly known and is a fascinating (if ever so slightly touristy) way to start the day.