Monday, 2 April 2018

In praise of a plate of porridge

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A few years ago a friend told me that his heart specialist, who is of the feminine persuasion, advised him to have porridge for breakfast. “Porridge,” she reckoned, “Just eats up cholesterol.”

I decided to follow her advice and have been on a diet of a porridge for breakfast ever since. I assumed that my childhood regime of Creamota plus generous amounts of brown sugar, and lashings of cream would nullify the cholesterol-reducing qualities and so now I merely dribble the tiniest amount of maple syrup on the gooey mass and add a couple of dessertspoons of heart-ticked-labelled plain yoghurt.

Recently my doctor congratulated me on substantially reducing my cholesterol level.

It’s not quite the same as I remember the enjoyment of my childhood porridge, but I was a skinny kid and any opportunity to bulk up would have been encouraged by my long-suffering parents. Milk back then came in glass bottles and the top 20 per cent was thick delicious cream. You never shook the bottle and there was always a race among siblings to get to that top section to make your porridge incredibly palatable.

I reckon NZ dairy producers are the only industry group in the world that have allowed their commodities to go backwards. Today’s milk is like white water and I suspect the white water that tourists go rafting in is just as nutritious. And you wouldn’t use a hand egg-beater to try and whip cream today. It would take hours. You need an electric model and even then you need to start the process well before the meal for which it is intended to get it acceptably thickened. Leave it in the refrigerator for a couple of days and it miraculously turns to water.

It’s like the opposite process Christ used at Cana in Galilee.

Improving the quality of their products does not seem to appear high on Fonterra’s agenda. All you read about is the arguments over preserving the integrity over the farm-gate milk price and the feasibility of being able to trade their shares amongst themselves.

The good news is that the New Zealand dairy co-operative chose a curious name to brand its products so disappointed consumers around the world buying the mediocre merchandise will assume that it is produced in Spain, leaving the entirely false image that we are a great primary-product producing country, intact.

I don’t know just how popular porridge is anymore. I couldn’t find the old tried and true Creamota brand in the stores anywhere and in fact most porridge is sold as ‘rolled oats.’ The word porridge hardly appears anywhere on our grocery shelves these days.

And yet it is a well-established brand name. The three bears found theirs at varying temperatures and ‘pease’ porridge was in the pot for nine days. If you’re interested ‘pease porridge’ was porridge with peas added. Sounds awful, but the Pease Porridge Hot nursery rhyme saw legions of schoolchildren pairing off and clapping hands together following the rhythm of the verse.

What a splendid way to market your product.

However on the other side of the coin ‘doing porridge’ is British slang for serving a prison sentence; porridge being a traditional breakfast in UK prisons. This was exposed by a TV comedy series starring Ronnie Barker.

If you think that having a UK-prison-style breakfast every morning would be incredibly boring and perhaps even soul-destroying, well you’re not wrong. However I do get a respite once a week when I attend a Rotary Club breakfast where we are served bacon and eggs and tomatoes and sausages proceeded by fruit and cereals and accompanied by triangular shaped toast with butter and spreads and coffee.

It then takes all of the next week to lower my cholesterol.

“No matter what diet you are on, you can usually eat as much as you want of anything you don’t like.” - Walter Slezak


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