The humble bowl of grains commonly known as porridge is experiencing a revival. According to NPR, the Dickensian dish is popping up all over, in increasingly elevated and flavorful iterations. You can now find cookbooks and restaurant menus that feature oatmeal infused with fruit juices, topped with elaborate compotes, or simply, perfectly cooked with care and precision that would be difficult to replicate at home. Admittedly, this site has been a bit down on oatmeal of late—a food that once sustained empires!—but, that may be on the verge of changing. Porridge, it seems, is no longer the world’s blandest breakfast.
A category of food that comprises oatmeal, grits, cream of wheat, congee, and more, porridge could be considered the most universal breakfast food. Nearly every world cuisine makes some version of porridge, perhaps because it often consists of a single, widely available ingredient. And yet, most of us would put it far down on our list of favorite breakfasts. Porridge, in its most common forms, isn't craveable or mouth watering, but recently, cookbook authors and restaurant industry stalwarts have taken it upon themselves to treat ancient grains with new excitement. Culinary technologist Nicholas Ahrens credits a focus on health for porridge's resurgence. “The broad interest in paleo-style diets has had a huge influence on porridges," he told NPR. "People want to go back to the original seeds and grains in their untouched form. When you can see the fully articulated grains in your bowl, you feel reassured that you what you're eating is genuine, simple and clean."
In New York, OatMeals, an entire restaurant devoted to oatmeal, is just one example of porridge revitalization in action. The four-year-old restaurant has received rave reviews, thanks in part to the fact that most of us have never viewed oatmeal as anything other than a disappointing winter replacement for cold cereal. Frankly, it's about time we saw porridge's potential. The trend, if renewed focus on something that has been around for centuries can be called a trend, isn’t exclusive to the US. In India, masala oats are more popular than ever, according to cookbook author Mridula Baljekar.
While much of the discussion around porridge today centers on amping it up with more flavorful ingredients, there is still a place for a classic, no fuss bowl of grains. The Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship, the only one of its kind, awards the top prize—the title of “World Porridge Making Champion”—to the person who makes the best tasting bowl of oats with just oatmeal, salt, and water. Earlier this month, 87-year-old Bob Moore took home the 23rd World Porridge Making Champion prize. You may recognize him as the founder of Bob's Red Mill (his face is part of the logo), a company that has embraced the simplicity and tradition of whole grains since the 1970s. If we’re being honest, though, the winner of The Golden Spurtle's specialty category—porridge combined with eggs, butter, vanilla sugar, cream and liqueur made by Thorbjorn Kristensen—sounds much more appealing. Let the porridge renaissance continue.