East Midlands Food

East Midlands Food

Points about porridge…

Home Chat, 31 January 1914 (1d.)

A belated Happy New Year. Back to blogging now after a bit of a break…

I’ve been doing some more museum visiting, so will be writing soon about a few of the things I found. In the meantime, a few months ago I promised you the Home Chat recipe for porridge from 1914 when winter came around. I’m sure you could have done with this last month, officially the coldest December on record for 100 years, but having put my copy of the magazine in one of those proverbial safe places, I’ve only just unearthed it again.

As you can judge from the cover, the magazine was aimed mainly at middle class women with a reasonable level of household income but unlikely to have a live-in cook – so speed and simplicity were valued when it came to recipes. According to Home Chat, one advantage of porridge, along with being inexpensive and high in nutritional value, was that it was ‘very little trouble to make’. I wonder if you will agree after reading this:


The best plan is to make the porridge overnight; it then merely requires reheating in the morning. For in order to be wholesome, oatmeal must be very thoroughly cooked, and it is impossible to give it sufficient time before an early breakfast, while it gives unnecessary work in the morning. A double saucepan, such as is used for boiling milk, is the best thing in which to make it. With this it is not necessary to keep a constant watch on the pan, though the porridge will constantly require stirring, and the water on the outer pan may need replenishing as it boils away.

A Warning. – Don’t attempt to make porridge in an ordinary blue-and-white enamel pan; such a pan is too thin…

The Oatmeal. – Use either the best Scottish oatmeal, or if you prefer them, the prepared oats one buys in packets… in cooking the prepared ones, fuel and time are saved, as ordinary oatmeal takes two or three times longer to cook.

Making the porridge

A porridge stick or spurtle

Put one quart of boiling water and half a teaspoon of salt into the inner saucepan, and about half fill the outer one. When the water boils, sprinkle in two large tablespoons (two ounces) of good oatmeal, and stir well, using a wooden spoon – or, better still, a Scotch porridge stick, which somewhat resembles a short thin rolling pin [otherwise known as a spurtle]. Let the porridge cook gently for about three-quarters of an hour, if you are using ordinary oatmeal, or for from twenty to thirty minutes if prepared oats. If the porridge become too thick, add more boiling water; it should be thick but not rocky.

Serve it with cold milk or cream, sugar or salt. Some people like golden syrup with it, but for many this, when combined with oatmeal, is too heating.

At the end of the recipe there is a note: NEXT WEEK - “Gladys Owen and her Casserole”. A very special article indeed’. Alas, intriguing as this is, there will be no ‘NEXT WEEK’ as this is the only copy of the magazine that I have.

By the way, spurtles are great for making Yorkshire puddings as well as stirring porridge… Their designs vary, and I wonder if anyone has one in their museum collection? Let me know if so, and maybe we can include an image in a future blog.


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A research project that looked at various aspects of food in the East Midlands, linking them with museum displays and objects in the region, and making the results available to as many people as possible in different formats.