Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Porridge-Eaters May Not Be Cultists, But A Boy Must Pay Attention When His Mother Waves The Spurtle

The clocks may change and the leaves may fall, but in the Old Manse, the true sign of winter's advance is the opening of the porridge season.
I am, when it comes to porridge, something of a fanatic. As Mr George Orwell was to a cup of tea, so am I to the swollen oat. I make it fresh every morning while attempting to recover from the Radio 4 UK theme, in which Greensleeves, Early One Morning, Scotland the Brave, Danny Boy and What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor? all blend, quite hellishly, into Rule Britannia. Has a worse medley of music ever been constructed? I think not, though I have some sympathy with Mr Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File, who encounters a military band playing Mozart's Marriage of Figaro and responds by saying to his superior: "Tell me who wins". (After this incident, it comes as no surprise that Mr Palmer can survive psychedelic torture at the hands of grim-faced Albanians.)
But I digress. My point is porridge. As my mother Mrs Elder (or Ma'am) used to say, when flicking a slice of mature porridge from the bureau with her spurtle, "there is the way you would like to make it, and there is the right way".
But Ma'am was not inflexible on the matter of porridge. She eschewed it entirely when the Quaker company took over Scott's Porage Oats sometime in the early 1980s, as she had a lifelong suspicion of Quakers, believing them to be a cult in which forgiveness and fondness were too easily dispensed.
I have subsequently discovered that there is no connection between the Quaker religion and the cereal company. If anything, Kellogg's is closer to a cult, being the product of a Sanitarium founded by Dr John Harvey Kellogg to discourage the consumption of coffee, meat, alcohol or tobacco, with the curious - yet not unappealing - motto: “Eat what the monkey eats, simple food and not too much of it”. (Quaker, the oat company, is now part of Pepsico, the company which, in 1898, attempted to woo customers in China with the slogan: "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.")
Nor am I convinced that Ma'am had ever encountered a Quaker. In the Store, she would wave furiously at the wall of Porage and declaim: "I'd rather burn for eternity than eat breakfast in Penicuik!" These were strong words, and I cannot explain them, except to say that her beliefs were as hard to shift as they were to comprehend. It may be that she had filed Quakerism alongside the various unnatural habits which were said to be rife whenever one crossed the county line. "Midlothian Practices" was a catch-all term, the details of which I was encouraged never to explore.


Learson said...

If the entire world could be civilized to Quakerdom it would probably be better run than it is at present.However, such idealism is suicidally foolish and those students of 'peace studies' who wish the abolition of war had better ask it of Santa Claus in whom they doubtless also believe.
With regard to porridge and ignoring Dr Johnson's jibe about horses and Scotsmen, I like the spelling as found,if memory serves, in 'Kidnapped', viz., 'parritch'. However I dont believe Ebeneezer Balfour to be the ideal spokesman for a brand-building exercise.

Anonymous said...

It is clear to me that Ma'am was a Scotswoman who should be an example to all her countrymen and women. Would that all Scots would never cross the county line, or at least never take Boswell's road South. Think just how improved the Westminster village would be. How much easier it would be to understand Today's guests. We should at worst only have to listen to Prestcott and Straw. We could eat our Irish oats in peace, free of the shrill lament of scots telling us how to live our lives.