Our grandparents were raised on it. Our parents may have been as well. But breakfast cereal has almost wiped it out.
Porridge is any kind of hot cereal made from grain. Oatmeal and cream of wheat are the most common today, but you can make hot cereal from almost any kind of grain—corn, rice, or even quinoa.
Compared to ubiquitous breakfast cereal, porridge may seem boring, outdated, and inconvenient. Cereal is instant, no cooking required. Kids love it because it is sweet and the colorful characters on the boxes appeal to them. How many of us have seen children throwing fits in the cereal aisle at the grocery store? All too often, the mother breaks down and buys said child the latest fad in breakfast cereal.
Despite cereal's convenience, porridge holds several advantages over it. Porridge is several times cheaper: think of the price of rolled oats compared to the price of a box of breakfast cereal. Oats are far cheaper, and a container of oats will last longer than a box of cereal will. Rice, cornmeal, and every type of grain beats breakfast cereal in price.
Porridge is substantial and will give you energy until lunch, especially when served with a high-protein food, such as eggs or milk. And it is healthier—most kinds of porridge contain more fiber than breakfast cereal, and you can control the amount of sugar that goes into it. Breakfast cereal companies have to add vitamins to their cereal or they won't have any health benefits to advertise.
Children and even adults in today's society are becoming far too accustomed to excessive sweetness, which is well exemplified in breakfast cereals. A few years ago, one cereal company announced that they were cutting the sugar in their cereals drastically. I was pleased at the announcement, thinking that the cereal would taste much better, until I heard that they were replacing the sugar with an artificial sweetener. It seems that society cannot give up its sweet tooth. No wonder obesity and diabetes are so commonplace.
Now I am not saying there is anything terrible about eating breakfast cereal. It is convenient and can be a lifesaver when you're pressed for time in the morning. But many types of porridge can be made in just a few minutes longer than the time it takes to boil water.
Here are some of my favorite recipes for porridge. Depending on the type of porridge you make, you might like to top it with butter and salt, sugar, honey, dried fruit, maple syrup, yogurt, or granola. When I was small, sometimes my mother would let us stir in a few miniature marshmallows for a treat.
Swedish Rice Porridge
1 large apple, chopped
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup white rice
1 cup water
3-inch cinnamon stick
4 cups milk
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla
Butter a three-quart saucepan. Put in rice, water, salt, and cinnamon and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer 10-15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Add milk. Bring to a simmer and add brown sugar, apple, and raisins. Simmer 45 minutes over low heat. Serves 6.
(from The Mozart Season)
2 cups rolled oats
4 cups water
3 apples, chopped
3 cups vanilla yogurt
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Cinnamon, nutmeg, and honey to taste
Boil apple and raisins in the water until tip of a knife goes through apple easily. Add oats and simmer until done. Stir in yogurt, nuts, and flavorings. Serves 6.
Corn Meal Mush
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup cold water
3 cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
Bring 3 cups water and salt to a boil. Mix corn meal with cold water in small bowl. Gradually stir mixture into boiling water. Cook 10-15 minutes, stirring often. Serve with honey. Serves 6.
3 cups water
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 teaspoon salt