Porridge just won't go away
I can understand meringue. I can understand that, at some point in the last millennium or so, someone discovered that by whisking egg whites with sugar you could create something wonderful. I can understand why meringue has staying power and still makes it onto A-list dessert menus.
It's fascinating to think about the origins of dishes like meringue: in some primitive Renaissance kitchen, some ancient-day Heston Blumenthal somehow stumbled on a chemical formula that would be a significant contribution to the culinary arts. (If I let my imagination wander into that olden-days kitchen I can picture rough-hewn stone floors, a massive open fire, outsized iron pots, great excitement, flying exclamations...)
Now, getting to my sort of rambling point: I don't understand porridge. I made it for breakfast yesterday morning and, as my microwave ticked down the seconds to its ring tone and my stovetop espresso maker started to whoosh out its lovely crema, I wondered about porridge.
At some point in the last two or three millennium, someone, possibly a downtrodden Celtic tribeswoman with bad hair and a short life expectancy, discovered that if she cooked oats and water over fire for long enough she could create a bowl of ghastly slops that would get her tribesman through a day's raping, pillaging or farming. I understand that.
What I don't understand though, is porridge's staying power. Why are we still eating such ghastly slops? Unlike meringue, porridge was not a creation of the culinary arts but an act of necessity. There are other sources of nutrition available to us in the 21st century.
But still, with the temperature dipping, I made porridge yesterday morning. Because I'm trying to learn to love it. I see it on breakfast menus, I read of its health benefits, I hear my friends and acquaintances singing its praises, I notice the empty shelf space in the cereal aisle at my local supermarket.
When my porridge was cooked I doused it in maple syrup and spooned some poached apple on top. Because the only way porridge is edible is with a walloping addition of sweetness - brown sugar, golden syrup, treacle (a Yorkshire tradition according to Alan Davidson's mighty Oxford Companion to Food; in the 18th century, weavers in Leeds ate it for breakfast and dinner and called it "water pudding" - my point exactly).
These days, there are fancier things than treacle sitting on top porridges around the traps: banana, tea-smoked prunes and heather honey; superfruit compote, organic quinoa and "Melbourne Rooftop" honey crumble; a block of honeycomb.
But doesn't all that sugar defeat the purpose? Doesn't all that sugar turn porridge into a dessert? Seems to me we might as well eat meringue.
Are you a porridge fan? How do you serve it?