Growing up in America meant the only thing I knew of porridge was Goldilocks and the 3 bears. Now that I’m a little more well versed in food I realize it’s actually one of the most ubiquitous dishes in the world. This blog post prompted me to do some research. It turns out porridge and it’s history is a lot more interesting than I realized, and my research even led me right back to Michigan where I grew up. Here’s a brief rundown:
- According to this article porridge was invented soon after farming was invented and it built nations. Porridge allowed mothers to stop breastfeeding their children earlier allowing them to have children closer together, in turn, growing populations much faster.
- Cultures around the world have adapted porridges. European cultures have wheat porridge, Asian countries have rice porridges, Indian cultures have wheat porridges and the Americas have corn porridges.
- Grits, a corn porridge, never really caught on in the Northern United States. European immigrants in the US (specifically the midwest) began experimenting with oat porridges from their homeland. Instant oatmeal was created.
- Enter the Seventh Day Adventists based in Michigan. They called on people to cut back on meat consumption for breakfast. John Harvey Kellogg, a Seventh Day Adventist doctor began experimenting with instant breakfast porridges for his patients and created cornflakes, becoming the father of breakfast cereal.
- Tanayia grows up in Michigan eating breakfast cereals. That all changed when she spends the night at Ms. Faye’s house for the first time. In the morning Ms. Faye makes cornmeal porridge and Tanayia understands why someone would break into a house to steal porridge.
Since my first cornmeal porridge I’ve tried a good number of different porridges (and I will continue trying porridges until the day I die). From grits in the southern United States, to congee in Cambodia, as well as different Jamaican porridges, but cornmeal porridge will always have a special place in my heart. Besides being absolutely delicious, there is just something about it that makes you feel like someone has poured their heart into a bowl for you to eat and you instantly feel better about life. Every time I eat it I can feel the nostalgia that Bob Marley sings about, even though I didn’t grow up in Jamaica eating porridge.
No woman no cry, no woman no cry
Little darling, don’t she’d no tears, no woman no cry
Say, say, said I remember when we used to sit
In the government yard in Trenchtown
And then Georgie would make the fire light
As it was, love would burn on through the night
Then we would cook cornmeal porridge
Of which I’ll share with you
I’ve never, ever met a bowl of cornmeal porridge that I was able to turn down. In fact when Ms. Faye made cornmeal porridge for this blog post I had already eaten breakfast so I tried to say I didn’t want any. She knows me well and made me and Omar some anyway, before I knew it I was fighting with Omar to give the bowl back to me:) Here are the basic steps. Hopefully one day you’ll come to Jamaica and try some at Woolery Kitchen…