There is no doubt that porridge is far and away the best value breakfast we can eat. It is a very Scottish dish – generations of Scots have been sustained by oatmeal while fighting, studying, crofting, living their daily lives. Yet it would seem that many of us prefer to pay a lot of money for the far more expensive option of a boxed cereal or a fancy muesli to the unglamorous and large bag of porridge oats that can be bought for the same amount of money. Leaving aside the spurious question of preparation time – for it is a myth that porridge takes a lot of preparation, it actually takes no longer than it does to make a cup of tea once you get used to it – why would anyone in their right mind chose to spend money on cereal or muesli when good wholesome nutritious porridge is available for a fraction of the cost?
Well, surely the answer is in this little word ‘choice’. We think we are making a positive choice, but are we? For a start, look at where porridge is placed on the supermarket shelves. It’s always at the bottom of the shelves so that it doesn’t take up valuable selling space needed by more profitable and promoted goods. After all, if you’re going to buy porridge, you’re buying porridge and there’s not a huge choice of different brands. But if you’re after cereal there are loads of different varieties, all vying with each other, saying, me, me, I’m the brightest, the most excitingly flavoured, the most nutritious, have the best and most fashionable giveaway, I’m the newest, buy me, buy me.
And muesli is just the same – I have the most fruit, the best nuts, my boxes are more compostable, I’ve got the freshest freeze dried strawberries. Cereal or muesli, it’s all the same. But it’s all part of this system we’ve got stuck in where buying more exciting things, producing more tempting things is the essence of a system which is entirely dependent on using up resources to develop and sell us things we really don’t actually NEED but somehow have been convinced we want. Eating porridge is not just about eating good food for less money, it’s also a political act, rejecting the pressure capitalism puts on us to go along with its agenda of constant growth and using up resources on rubbish. And this way of looking at our food can be used for all of it. Take yoghurt, for example. In the space of 50 years we’ve been persuaded to start buying a previously unknown product which is basically a vehicle for sugar. Any fruit that is in it is incidental. Yet we spend millions on flavoured yogurts. The sales of simple, healthful yogurt are small by comparison with
the stuff which will give us very little in the way of nutritional value and uses up large amounts of resources in packaging.
Look around the supermarket, is there anything you can’t look at in this way? Cat food, dog food, freezers and chill cabinets full of prepared food. Anything that has been changed from its original state. Ah, but it’s all about time you say, there isn’t the time to make food from scratch, to start cooking when you get home tired and hungry with a family needing fed.
You’re right. It’s all interlinked and that’s why it’s so complicated and difficult to untangle this system we’re locked into. So start small, do something possible but truly radical – have porridge for breakfast!
Written by Mary Ellen Herdman
Picture from http://www.scottish-at-heart.com