I tried to make some porridge this morning; I hadn’t done this since last winter and I was in a hurry. I looked at the instructions on the side of the box, expecting to see something along the lines of “Add one cup of oats and two cups of milk, per person, to a large bowl. Microwave on full power for four minutes”; I didn’t have time for the far more aesthetically pleasing saucepan method, although, as it turns out, this approach would have been quicker, and easier to fix when things started going wrong.
For some bizarre reason, the well known manufacturers of our favoured brand of porridge have decided that their instructions didn’t present the sort of challenge any self respecting porridge eater would expect, nay demand. The “X cups of oats to Y cups of milk” approach has been replaced with “Add 340ml of milk to 45g of oats”. For how many portions? Will this feed one small child, or will it expand, once heat is applied, to an amount sufficient for a ravening football squad?
I scoured the box for further clues, but there were none. I’d have to find some kitchen scales, so I could weigh the oats, and a measuring jug, so I could add the required amount of milk. After much banging of cupboard doors and slamming of kitchen drawers, I’d succeeded in creating a sort of modernist sculpture out of all the items I’d chucked about, in a frenzied attempt to locate the scales and measuring jug. If I’d had the time to admire my inadvertent creation, I might have called it “Egg-cup with saucepan, blender and crewit”. But I didn’t have time and I swept the unstable structure to one side, to make way for the weighing and mixing of the long overdue porridge. As the pile of implements settled into a new shape, the tiny funnel I use for filling my hip-flask fell to the floor and rolled under the cooker, where it remains amongst a sea of fluff, punctuated by the occasional dessicated – formerly frozen – pea. Now I was really cross.
Based on my supreme ignorance of the subject, I guessed that 45g of oats would be for one person and added 135g to the bowl, allowing enough for myself and two hungry children. I realized my mistake too late; 135g is an awful lot of oats. I decided that I probably only needed half the amount. I couldn’t just waste 67.5g of oats, so I decided to return them from whence they had come. The box design allows a small square pouring hole to be opened via perforations in the cardboard. Returning a not inconsiderable amount of oats through this orifice was clearly not going to work. In a moment of inspiration, I tore a sheet of kitchen towel from the roll, folded it in half and then fashioned it into a crude, and slightly too floppy funnel, the end of which I positioned over the opening in the oats box. I grabbed a handful of oats from the bowl and emptied it into my makeshift refilling device. Around fifty percent made it back into the box, the remainder scattering itself over a surprisingly wide area and adding a snow-like enhancement to “Egg-cup with saucepan, blender and crewit”. I persevered and finally reduced the amount of oats in the bowl to a level I deemed appropriate. All I needed to do now was add the milk. The measuring jug was next to the sculpture and glistening in a way a clean measuring jug shouldn’t. It was also surrounded by a rapidly expanding pool of extra virgin olive oil. The last rearrangement of “EC with S, B & C” had not only consigned my valuable little funnel to a dusty grave, but had also dislodged a bottle of oil.
I grabbed the jug and attempted to clean it with my kitchen towel funnel. Take it from me, you don’t want to mix porridge oats and olive oil. The sudden increase in the level of lubrication, brought about by the unholy union of oats and oil, caught me by surprise. The jug slipped from my hand and fell the short, but fatal distance to the stone flagged floor. A traditional, stone flagged, country kitchen looks great until someone like me tries to prepare a simple bowl of porridge in it.
My only option now was to estimate the amount of milk required. I poured enough in to cover the oats completely and placed the bowl in the microwave. After four minutes cooking on on full power, I’d managed to create a congealed mass, which could be removed from its container as a single, bowl shaped, lump. In a larger size, I suspect it would have made a very hard wearing trampoline. I didn’t have the time, or fortitude to start again, so I just added more milk to the trampoline and attempted to mix the two together.
“I suggest you have extra syrup with your porridge this morning kids.” They eyed me with suspicion – normally I lecture them on the damage such concentrated sugar can do to their teeth. We chewed our way through breakfast in an uneasy silence. My relief at them departing to clean their teeth was short lived; as they attempted to achieve any sort of brushing motion in their porridge cloyed mouths, I turned to face the bomb-site, which had been a kitchen a mere half hour earlier.
I will spend this morning tidying the kitchen and will then set out to purchase a measuring jug. If I’m feeling brave, I may fish around under the cooker with a piece of bent wire, in the hope of retrieving that precious little funnel.
Tomorrow we’re having muesli.