A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Thursday, 15 February 2018

Hooptedoodle #292 - Name, Rank and Cereal Number

The Final Instalment
A while ago, while I was looking out for some sort of acceptable breakfast food which would offer a more healthy alternative to my favourite toast and jam, I tried a few brands and varieties of "instant" porridge. I took a liking to some of the products of Dorset Cereals, especially their Gingerbread mixture, which is pretty good for a zero-effort production straight out of the shower.

Recipe:

* Slit the packet open
* Empty into a deep porridge bowl
* Add one cup-full of semi-skimmed milk (little green plastic cup in the cupboard, filled 1cm from the rim)
* Microwave on full power for 3 minutes
* Allow to stand for 1 minute, stir well
* Leave to cool for a few minutes (while making coffee)
* Bingo - gingerbread flavour porridge

Now all right, all right - I know this isn't proper porridge. Proper porridge is made with rolled oats and water and a little salt, and has to be eaten on a mountain top in a blizzard, while you are wearing a kilt and sandals - maybe a hair shirt would be OK. Any milk or sweetener (especially golden syrup) is a dreadful offence, and not acceptable at all. Even thinking about it is shameful.

Well, to coin a phrase, shove it. The microwave packet stuff is pretty good, especially on a cold morning, it's quick to make, and it is definitely better for you than toast and jam (real butter, Bonne Maman strawberry preserve, 3 slices, mmm, stop it...).

Back to the original tale. The Contesse found it was hard to purchase locally, but found a source online. Nice big packs too - one big box contained 5 smaller boxes, each of which contained 10 of these little sachets. That's 50 days' porridge, chaps - almost certainly sufficient for a lot longer than 50 days, since the odd portion of toast and jam would probably sneak in from time to time, not to mention occasional pains au chocolat etc.

If you are looking for humour in this story, then the only funny bit is coming up, so be careful not to miss it. The Contesse, who is good at these things, spotted that our big box of Gingerbread Porridge (hereinafter GP, for brevity) had a use-by date only 8 days later than the date of receipt - this implied some very intensive porridge consumption for a while, so she emailed and protested about the short date. The suppliers were as good as gold - they apologised at length and unreservedly, and promised to ship us a replacement box immediately, which they did.

Only snag was that it was from the same batch as our original box, and thus had the same use-by date. Thus we now had 100 sachets of GP, all of which in theory had to be eaten within a very short time. I'm not sure what would have happened if we'd complained again, but we didn't.

At this point commonsense bubbled to the top of the bowl. A sealed sachet of instant porridge contains almost nothing which is going to deteriorate. Dried oats, some flavouring and sweetener - maybe some actual dried gingerbread from Grannie Dorset's kitchen? In theory, you should be able to eat this stuff long after the official expiry date - what could happen to it? What is it going to turn into, in the absence of moisture and light? Bear in mind that the warring Highlanders, in their day, could subsist indefinitely with just a small bag of oatmeal and a little spring water. I don't know what they plugged the microwave into, but that is impressive.

So that's all fine. I slowed right down on the manic porridge-eating schedule, and in fact it's taken me a couple of years to get through it all.

Today I am left with the last packet - so I hung it on the fridge to register my respect for the occasion. I shall now eat it. It's OK. I am not exactly excited by the stuff, but it has some advantages (as discussed) and I can savour the fact that I got it for half price.

Half-price porridge is a good deal, even if it's not proper porridge.

17 comments:

  1. How can you really be sure you haven't died months ago from eating stale dated porridge inspired breakfast packets?

    and any way as long as you use a healthy bread, I think the nutritional value of the toast breakfast can actually be very similar, superior to many (not all) instant oatmeals. Of course what they really need to round them off is bacon.

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    1. Well I thought about that, but someone is still painting soldiers around here, so that must be me, I guess.

      Ah yes - bacon. A doctor friend once said to me there would be less heart trouble in the world if only watercress smelled as good as bacon.

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  2. Half-price porridge? You really are an honourary Scot!

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    1. It works all right as long as i buy the beers.

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  3. Ah Tony, I believe that only YOU could have written such a post! The 100 days campaign eating out of date 'not proper porridge' made for a wonderful read, and the photo of the final sad packet magnetised to the fridge had me giggling to myself. I like not proper porridge too, Oat so Simple in my case, but I do add half a tea spoon of brown sugar, can't eat it any other way.

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    1. Lee - I'm delighted that someone apart from me finds this stuff amusing - I regularly reduce myself to hysterics, of course, but many of the comments I get indicate some level of unease. Oat So Simple not bad at all - do you use Demerara sugar?

      My cousin used to have proper, boiled porridge, but he used to put cream and treacle on it. It looked interesting, so I tried it. Vile. Give me toast and Bonne Maman every time.

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  4. Microwaveable bowl, 40g rolled oats, make up to 150gms with water, leave overnight, add bit of milk in morning and microwave, add milk to the way you like it, don't botherwith the salt and cold mountains optional. For added health, put 20-30 grams mixed dried blueberries and cranberries in the overnight mix. Works for me.

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    1. You mean... you mean this is the secret of your Eternal Youth? Cranberries are a bit healthy - I'd be happier with cranberries if they didn't taste like red cabbage. Thanks for recipe. My wife makes microwave porridge every morning from normal dried oats - it's OK - not enough gingerbread for me.

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    2. I direct your attention to Dr.Johnston's definition of oats (and my opinion of them as a food stuff)

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    3. Dr J got fairly short shrift from old Boswell on this topic. Never sure about Dr Johnston - he seems to have tried too hard to present himself as Stephen Fry. Just a minute - did I get that the wrong way round?

      Whatever - a man frequently in need of a sharp slap.

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  5. Goodness - how to torture a Yorkshireman. Talk about an awful recipe for sweet porridge (sorry, I'm a salt and water man)and then say that you got it half price....

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    1. Heh heh! And that's for doing nothing - just wait till you do something...

      Inflict! Inflict!

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    2. Is that fraud? There are certainly some moral tergiversations there. Having complained , justifiably, about being sent a package which only a person training for the world microwaveable porridge championship could consume before the use- by, you get another pack , eat both and gloat about your canny purchasing skills! It reminds me of a story about National Servicemen in Malaya in the 60s who wrote to Gillette telling the company how wonderful its razor blades were and how they had used one blade for three weeks and were sent by return ten packs of blades. The news spread and more squaddies did this. Eventually Gillette cottoned on and their hopeful correspondents received a pack with two blades and the message that the company hoped they would enjoy the enclosed six weeks supply.
      Apocryphal no doubt.

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    3. Vaguely reminiscent of the good news/bad news joke about being forced to eat camel dung in the desert.

      There is a moral scam of major proportions present here - the British ritual of being encouraged to ditch completely edible food because of a ludicrous use-by date, and then buy in fresh stuff from the same supermarket. I feel a supplementary post coming on. Thank you for this.

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  6. Gingerbread-flavoured porridge? I was raised by God fearing Presbyterians who knew that the only true path to virtue lies in eating porridge on cold mountaintops. Porridge flavoured with salt and water, a known specific against dancing and all it leads to. They'd have told me gingerbread is the Devil's work. You're going to hell in a hand basket M. Foy.

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    1. Guilty as charged, your Honour. I've always known I was going to hell, only the means of transport were ever in question.

      I suppose it's too late to start with the salty gruel now, then?

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  7. I received an email from Brother Francisco, who says:

    There are only two foods that need added salt - porridge and chips. I understand that porridge is even better if you cook a week’s batch in one go and pour it into a drawer then cut a cold slice each day. I haven’t tried the drawer option but sweet porridge is the devil’s xxxxxx. I haven’t succeeded in persuading my family of this - they eat porridge with yoghurt, berries and other muck.

    The Spanish look very jolly. That man definitely has a Freddy Mercury moustache.

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