If you order a porridge at a fancy breakfast place, you probably don’t think about porridge being one of the oldest foods there is. The warm oat meal is really at trend at the moment, highly praised for its digestible ingredients and its effects on our energy balance and blood sugar levels. Entering “Porridge Recipes” into Google will lead to millions of search results and opens up an infinite variety of porridge variations and preparation ideas.
Porridge – a food as old as mankind
The origin of the word “porridge” can be traced back on the one hand to the expression ‘pottage’, a variation of the French word ‘potage’ – a name for soup – and on the other hand to the word ‘pot’, the saucepan. Although the word “porridge” was not used until the 17th century, the practice of chopping or grinding cereals (such as oats, wheat or maize) and cooking them in a pot in water or milk is much older.
The consumption of porridge-like dishes accompanies the entire history of civilization. Scientists now assume that the cooking of cereal-like grasses was already done about 12,000 years ago and that it was accompanied by the development of mankind from nomadic hunter-gatherers to settled farmers. As a result, the processing of grain was not limited to the production of porridge, but also opened up new possibilities. The porridge was, in fact, further thickened and then baked as flat cakes or in brick form on hot stones or in the embers of fire which made it durable and portable. This civilizing innovation – from porridge to bread – can be proven almost simultaneously and on all continents. The preparation of rice porridge has been documented in China for about 4,500 years, while in other regions of Asia quinoa was consumed in the form of porridge more than 3,000 years ago. Porridge was also common in the Mediterranean area, Africa and Latin America.
About the “poor people” food and clockwise stirring
But now, back to the modern porridge, which today is often equated with the Scottish porridge. For climatic reasons alone, oats and barley were the predominant cereals in Scotland and played an important role as food. Strictly speaking, the Scottish porridge is about the gentle boiling of oat flakes which are constantly stirred in water or milk and adding a little butter and a final pinch of salt. The traditional Scottish porridge is now enjoyed mainly for breakfast and as a creamy, warm dish, often sweetened with sugar or honey. However, this was not always the case as porridge was considered to be the “poor peoples’ food” in the 18th century. Particularly in rural areas, oats were considered a staple food and the porridge produced from them was not only eaten hot, but also stored in cooled form in wooden porridge drawers. The porridge, which solidified during cooling, became thick and firm and could be eaten for several days – sliced, fried or stirred back into porridge.
In line with the importance as an essential form of food, the preparation of porridge is entwined with wondrous customs. The right stirring of porridge is one very important custom. A special stirring tool called “spurtle” is still in use for stirring the porridge. This is a round rod with a smooth surface which prevents the oat flakes from adhering to the stirring wood and thus prevents the porridge from clumping together. Since 1994 the annual “World Porridge Making Championship” has been taking place in the Scottish Highlands, where porridge chefs from all over the world compete for the victory trophy, the Golden Spurtle. By the way, stirring clockwise and only with the right hand, is said to bring good luck. Therefore, counterclockwise left-handed stirring is said to bring bad luck.
Independent from its history, nowadays more and more people are satisfied by a warm portion of porridge, no matter if it is right or left-handedly stirred. The Verival porridge, such as the popular Verival Strawberry-Chia Porridge or the new Verival Sport Porridge Chocolate-Banana, are particularly successful. The Verival Porridges are available in more than 10 different flavours and are easy to prepare – simply pour boiling water or hot milk over it, stir it and let it to soak for 3 minutes. Our Verival Porridge range also includes a range of gluten-free products and many vegan porridges.