John Larrysson's Kitchen: Oatmeal Savages and Oat Words

Porridge (or oatmeal) is a Scottish food, not historically popular in England. The English often referred to the Scots as Oatmeal Savages. Today porridge is also very popular in Canada, a country partly built by Scottish immigrants. In Hong Kong there are three types of oats commonly on sale. These are instant, quick and rolled. All three are lightly toasted to dry them and kill enzymes that might spoil the grain.

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Rolled oats are flakes made by crushing whole grains. They are used in baking (cooking) some types of bread, pancakes, muffins and other food. Muesli is an oat dish made with rolled and quick oats mixed with seeds and dried fruit, served with milk. Granola is muesli cooked with honey (or corn syrup).

Quick oats are thin cut up rolled oats and are often used to make porridge. Rolled oats can also be used, but it takes much longer. Porridge is a simple dish of cooked oats in water with a little salt. Fried mush is made with an extra thick (concentrated) porridge rolled in flour and fried.

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Instant porridge (or instant oatmeal) cannot be used in cooking, the way rolled oats or quick oats may be used. It is precooked and dried oats. Sometimes one cannot both get breakfast and get to work quickly. In such times one may need to pour hot water (or milk) over instant porridge at one's desk.

There are many other foods made with oats. Occasionally whole oat grains can be found and used in soup. However whole grains are less commonly found in stores. Oats can be used instead of rice to make oat congee. When buying oat congee in a store, check the ingredient list to make sure that sugar is not a major ingredient.

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Samuel Johnson wrote the first proper English Dictionary in 1755. He defined oats as, “A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” Does anyone wonder why many Scots dream of independence? Oats are a good healthy food and it made a strong people. Canada has had a high proportion of Scottish rather than English immigrants. Canada was built on oatmeal, not Yorkshire pudding. Oats are a major part of Scottish, Canadian and other western foods.

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by John Larrysson

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A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for over two decades.


NOTE:Starting in 2016, this column has been published once every two weeks, on every other Tuesday.

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