Monday, October 07, 2013

An aversion overcome

As a child, I spent several long periods in hospital. In those days (the late 1940s and early 50s), children's wards were not the bright, friendly places that they are today. There was a rigorous discipline; we were not allowed to get out of bed, even when feeling well, books were allowed but no toys and smacks were administered by the stern ward sister if we dared to untidy our beds. I grew to understand that some of the less pleasant procedures were actually intended for my benefit and not my torment but not all of the scars left by those hospital experiences are physical.

One aftereffect, which will probably sound trivial to many, was an aversion to porridge. I think I would go so far as to say an abhorrance of porridge. In hospitals today, even child  patients are given a menu to choose from but we were given a plate of food and told to eat it and there was no question of leaving a scrap. We were not fussy children; it was, after all, a time of food rationing and we were all used to plain fare. I have no memory of any meals other than breakfast so the rest must have been acceptable. The breakfast trolley, however, brought dread! The nurse took a thick,white cup, the kind that used to be used in railway refreshment rooms
dipped it into a large bowl and drew out a portion of a brown, lumpy, glutinous mess. I can see it now, dripping down the sides of the  cup as she poured it into my bowl. No jam, sugar, honey or fruit, not even a little salt to add flavour. Having to get through this every day was undoubtedly good training for convent school dinners, where the same discipline was applied. But, from the last day of my stay in hospital as a seven year old until yesterday, porridge has never passed my lips. When my children were babies, I had to put a peg on my nose and close my eyes while I was making their far lovelier porridge. The smell and sight of porridge, even the sight of an innocent thick, white cup could set my stomach churning.

I went to the supermarket on Saturday and, as I reached for my usual pack of cereal, I thought how foolish it was to be controlled by a memory. I have avoided eating a nutritious food for sixty years, was I to be a wimp forever? With a very deep breath, I reached for a pack of fruity porridge, plain oats was a step too far. I ate my first bowl of porridge yesterday and I had another this morning. Yes, I have to steel mysef to make it but today was easier than yesterday and, who knows, tomorrow I might even enjoy it!

This picture is from an article that tells how porridge changed mankind. I don't like to think of what I might have missed out on all those years.
What irrational aversions do you have?


  1. I too was a lifelong porridge hater, M, until I decided that - given the undeniable goodness of the humble oat - I should try to embrace it. I started experimenting with different additions and different types of oats and can definitely recommend pinhead oatmeal - which avoids the gloopiness you get with rolled oats - cooked with cinnamon and served with a chopped banana. Also porridge with summer fruits added (in winter, buy frozen, and add when defrosted). I did come across a version with peanut butter and although I love PB, I don't think porridge is its natural bedfellow. And I always make porridge the traditional Scots way with water (not milk) and little salt (no sugar).

    As for aversions - swede. I don't think it's irrational . . .

    1. So far, I have only tried a good brand of instant porridge with fruit, D. I don't know that I am brave enough to stir a pot of porridge but slowly, slowly - who knows?

      I can't think of any exciting recipes for swede to tempt you. I've always thought of it as a "filler" when cooking root vegetable stews but I'm sure they are good for some animals!

  2. Now I'm curious...a swede, is that a rutabaga?

    I didn't have a traumatic aversion to porridge but I never liked it and was not made to eat it. After seeing Martha Stewart make it from steel cut Irish Oats years ago, I tried her method and we've loved it ever since, my husband starting it most mornings as he gets up first. Martha saut├ęd the oats first in butter, but now we use coconut oil and that and using the steel cut oats does it for us. I add cinnamon, a few golden raisins for sweetness, and walnuts to mine before eating.

    My major aversion is mussels.

    Good for you, though, for being brave to try something that is good for you!


    1. I had to look it up, Dewena; you are right, what we call swede is rutabaga to you. Do you have any recipes that would tempt D to like it?

      As I said to D, I don't think I am brave enough yet to try to make porridge from scratch. I am now eating my instant pack version more enthusiastically after three days so perhaps I'll get my husband to make the real stuff and I'll see how that goes. I expect the added fruit and flavouring is very important.

      I love mussels. I like all shellfish except whelks - that is another aversion but with no horrid memory attached.

  3. Oat porridge and cream of wheat were daily fare when I was a child. We ate ours with maple syrup or raisins. I do not like it gelatinous as some folks do, I like it chewy with nuts and berries and brown sugar added at the end.

    I do not like bell pepper. Chagrin. The yellow, red, orange and green are so cheerful in the grocery I wish I could make friends with them. I've tried, but we are barely on speaking terms. I don't like wine or clams either. I know, I live a bleak existence.

    1. I love roasted bell peppers of any colour but green. I love champagne on special occasions but I'm just as happy with a soft drink. I'm sure you lead a far from bleak life - I've read your blog!


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