It Has Come to This!

There were bound to be some unpleasant repercussions from this Coronavirus but I never imagined it would come to this.

My post-primary education, except for the first year, was in boarding schools based near Dublin. It was over a hundred miles from home in Dungarvan and we only went home at Christmas and summer. Others came from all corners of the country and the accents of different counties was a new experience to my ears. I recall friends from counties Cork, Kerry, Clare, Offaly, Mayo, Tyrone and Down and we regularly made fun of each other’s accent, imitating and exaggerating; good banter!

We became aware of different backgrounds, the townies and the culchies, the city boys (it was an all-boys school) and the mountainy men, those who loved the sea and summer swimming and those who had never seen the ocean and were reluctant to dip a toe into the waves. We exchanged stories of what we would do at home and came to know of different ways of living even on our small island. We had different names for much the same thing – the Waterford blaa was the Belfast bap, for example.

One thing which shocked and amazed me, and still does to this day, was that there seemed to be an invisible line running roughly from Galway to Dublin which divided the country on one important gastronomic matter – how porridge was made. Those in the south, who lived in or around The Golden Vale, the rich dairy farmland which produces milk in abundance, made their porridge with milk while those to the north used water. To us southerners, porridge on water harked of famine necessity, of hungry days, of days of want. That was gruel! Think of Oliver Twist and the workhouse scene to gain a slight understanding of the southerner’s revulsion to such a concoction. One might feed the hens with it but certainly not consider it suitable for the kitchen table. To make the southern/northern divide even more stark, it was also common practice among those from the northern half of the country to put salt in the porridge while sugar was the preferred option in the south – and cream when it was to hand. The southerners liked their porridge rich!

flahavans-organic-porridgeoats4

 

Back to the present day: Shopping has been infrequent, non-existent for the last fortnight, since the arrival of Coronavirus COVID-19 but we have been very fortunate and grateful for the online ordering and home delivery service of our usual supermarket (Supervalu, Kilbarry). However, with the demand on this service, there is quite a gap between available dates – presently, there is no available slot up to the 11th of April. With such gaps, miscalculations and shortages are inevitable and the fresh products are first to run out. We ran out of milk! We only use milk for our breakfast cereal, generally muesli, and for making scones, never in coffee, so it had lasted quite well for us but the day came when we had no milk for our muesli. We switched to toast for a few days until the sliced bread ran out and then, it stared us in the face: we were running out of options and would have to make porridge on water and, yes, I remain a convinced and devoted southerner in love with milk, sugar and cream on my porridge!

I suppose if that is all we have to endure from the Coronavirus, we have little to be giving out about but it brought back memories of those lads in boarding school, those accents, those different backgrounds and stories and the northern gruel. Lord spare us from such again!

16 thoughts on “It Has Come to This!

    1. LOL. We must laugh at ourselves, Frances. Why? Otherwise, we might cry! I hope you and Iain are keeping well, staying away from people and minding yourselves. The garden is a great asset these days. Best wishes.

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  1. Perfect oatmeal (for 2)
    1 cup jumbo oats,
    2 cups water
    Salt.
    Let steep overnight.
    In the morning add 1 cup of whole milk (if you have it! lol)
    Cook

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    1. I refrained from using a common south of Ireland comment on such a recipe and will continue to do so. Water! Pffffffffffffffffff

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  2. Lovely story that would ring true with many of us …we got down to using half and half last week bu have now got a milkman. Worse than water based porridge is no porridge ! My husband is a big fan of the Flavahans oats that comes in a tub and he can microwave … it has disappeared from our local(U.K.) supermarkets and is selling on Amazon for £9.99 … and no we have not ordered any!
    Stay safe and well … what a blessing we are able to garden at this time!

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  3. Brings back memories. It Must be 60 years ago I shared a flat in Dublin with a College friend one of the Flahavans. The Oatmeal was going in to the stores and we used to go around to the shops asking for it and registering horror if they had not got it in stock!! Our research seems to have worked. By the way the thought of eating the stuff ( any brand )gives me the horrors uggggg!

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  4. Hi. I eat oatmeal about once a week. (Oatmeal and oat porridge are the same, I think). I make it with half water/half milk. I add blueberries and cinnamon. It’s a pretty tasty breakfast.

    In the USA, the biggest brand for oats is Quaker Oats.

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  5. You brought back the efforts my mother made to persuade me to eat said porridge – she tried thick, thin and creamy, with sugar and milk added, with salt like my Scottish grandparents, made on milk, made on water but nothing could persuade me to eat it – move on to when Brendan came into my life – he was making porridge in the microwave that resembled horse food so I took pity on him and started making porridge for him the way my mother liked it – he was most appreciative of my efforts! I found that I really enjoyed the process of making the porridge – but alas still haven’t got to eating it yet!!!!

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  6. My grandparents always made it with water – and salt but I was brought up with evaporated milk which was often added. It was probably something to do with the War (in the UK) and ‘evap’ was a cupboard staple, used for everything, from cooking, putting in coffee (and tea – yuk) and pouring on desserts. Might make porridge more palatable, and tins last for years in the press. But I am with you – milk and cream 🙂

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  7. Great memories for me too Paddy. My dad was from Westmeath and my mother was from Tipperary and definitely a ‘divide’. He always had porridge made on water with salt, whereas my mother made it with milk and we had sugar! Ha!
    Today I use water to make it ! And when my daughter is eating it she adds milk to it. I don’t add anything! So a bit of both you might say!
    Hope you and Mary are keeping well at this time It’s going to be a tough time ahead but we Irish are great at community spirit and we will get through this. I do hope you get some groceries soon though Take care and best wishes to you both 😉

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    1. LOL A family divided over the making of the porridge! Water V Milk!

      Re groceries: Supervalu, Kilbarry on the Tramore Road here in Waterford, have been very good to us. We have had one delivery and when I went online to place an order for the week after next – we think it best to order only every second week as it will put less strain on their delivery system – but, when I went online again I found there were no delivery slots available before the 11th of next month and the dates after that are not yet “active” so it was impossible to make a booking. I contacted Supervalu and had the reply – place your order and drop me a line and we’ll sort it out for you. I thought it was very kind of them.

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