Sunday, November 25, 2007


I realized several things at our wee dram party the other night.

1. I am slowly acquiring a taste for Scotch, though wouldn't rank it up there as my drink of choice yet. It was interesting to sample a wide variety at once, representing four of the five whiskey-producing "districts" and several different maturation processes, though not-so-much time-wise as which recycled casks (port or sherry) were used to add the final nose. Never fear, I learned my lesson about the delayed punch Scotch can carry while in Scotland, so my eight tastes added up to a whole wee dram, at best, and I awoke fully functional the next morning.

2. I have a number of pictures that I didn't blog during the last week of the trip while we were out of Internet contact. I think I might do a little nostalgic backtrack to post those before I forget what they are of entirely. I'm sure no one else has that problem with vacation pictures. My memory is so poor that after a couple of years going back is like taking somebody else's trip.

3. My very favorite souvenir from two weeks in Scotland is... Porridge. Not because I brought any home, but because I discovered it there.

I lived with my grandmother for a good part of my growing-up years, and it was her habit to send us off to school after a good breakfast of hot cereal and milk. My favorite was cornmeal mush, but we also had cream of wheat and, most often, oatmeal, which my family has always called "Mothers' Oats." Except me. Somehow I missed out on most of the local colloquialisms, perhaps because even at a very young age I was immersed in classic literature, which acted as an inoculation against some of the worst of those. Not that Mothers' Oats is bad, just that I have never met anyone else who called it that.

Oatmeal tasted fine, but it was not my favorite because it didn't have holding power. I was always hungry again by two hours after breakfast, and still had  two long hours until lunch, in the days before vending machines in schools when food outside the lunch room was treated as contraband. We didn't have instant oatmeal varieties, but I find those to be even worse. More processing seems to correlate with less rib-sticking. But porridge, ahh, what a difference the steel cut makes.

I was so excited to discover that the grocery store carries several varieties of steel-cut oatmeal, often referred to as Irish oatmeal, and even Quaker, the original Mothers' Oats, makes it now. I've tried them all, and this is what I've learned since Scotland.

* Don't bother with the pressed varieties. They don't taste appreciably different than Quaker. However, you can cook them in a microwave in three minutes, just remember to use a deep-enough bowl and never cook it on full power or it will explode all over the microwave.

* Slow-cooking steel-cut makes the best, longest lasting porridge, and I don't taste an appreciable difference between Quaker and McCann's. It's really not possible to cook it well in a microwave, though, and takes 30 minutes on the stove. I usually cook 4 servings at a time, eat one, feed one to DH, and save the other two in the refrigerator to decrease the average labor a little. When reheating, you need to add nearly the same volume of water as cereal, break up the porridge brick, and nuke for three minutes on 80% power.

* My favorite is the quick-cooking McCann's steel-cut oats. The steel-cut is slightly finer, but the texture is not too much different from the old-fashioned cut, and it works in the microwave. Nuke a single serving first for 3 minutes on 80% power, then for a second three minutes at 60% power. I don't know why oats have a tendency to rapidly expand in water at high temperatures, but I've cleaned enough microwaves and stove tops to know that they do. Please trust me, and don't feel the need to replicate those experiments.

* And finally, for whatever reason preparation instructions for oatmeal excludes salt in the cooking process. I assume they must be a little like dried beans, where salt in the water during cooking changes the texture. Or perhaps it's because salt allows for an even higher temperature leading to an even greater probability of exploding oatmeal. I elected not to perform those experiments, and merely add a shake of salt to the final product, before the brown sugar and cream.


Elaine Fine said...

Yup. I think I'm going to have some oatmeal for breakfast tomorrow. Thanks for the lovely and mouthwatering post.

Terry said...

Yep, steel-cut! It's the best!

cellodonna said...

Oatmeal rules! Every morning here for the past 16 years. Just plain Quaker Minute Oats(nuked one-and-a-half minutes)served with a bit of milk.

... and I just love that guy on the box!

Gottagopractice said...

And it helps keep cholesterol levels down. But I can't believe that I had to go to Scotland to discover steel-cut. Yum!