|The Final Instalment|
* 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.