I am sitting at Daylesford by the window, looking out onto Marylebone on a summer’s day, intermittently working on my laptop. Suddenly a strong familiar and comforting smell draws my attention. Porridge. Not just any porridge. It’s the 645am porridge from my childhood days. Every day. That oaty smell, not drowned by the cinnamon that I add to my porridge now, not the one I make with water and some almond milk, nor with all the mix up of flax and chia and prunes, neither with berries and bananas or with the saffron cardamom and jaggery from my book.
It is that simple British oat smell, pure oats and pure milk. The sky would be dark, still waking up at 645am, I would be in my navy uniform, sleepy eyes, ready to get the 7am train. A deep plate, not a bowl (because it cools down faster in a deep open plate), would be ready on the kitchen table, already stirred with a little honey or brown sugar, not too thick but not liquidy, white with milk, hot and steamy, cooling down quickly.
My mother made this for us every morning and I loved it. Even now, when I have a comfort craving, it’s usually sweet porridge that I want. But I’ve forgotten how good the real stuff is, without all the extras and additions and edits. Now I add spices like cinnamon, sometimes saffron and cardamom, I grate courgette into my porridge (google zoats if you find that weird – it is kinda weird but tastes of nothing really), adding prunes, bananas and berries is just normal, and I always add some chia and flax seeds, sometimes even a dollop of coconut yoghurt. On special days or if I’m really craving something creamy, I add a drizzle of almond butter, and if I remember, then a good sprinkle of black sesame seeds. Lovely, but overcomplicated.
There’s something so homely and wonderfully basic about porridge, as it is and always has been. Pure satisfaction. And I’ve totally forgotten that. Just like basic white toast with melted butter with a cup of tea.
I look up again. The smell has gone. That image of my home at the break of dawn, eating the porridge without any concept of eating grains, or any idea of what kind of sugar is in my porridge, or any over-complex thoughts of how dairy might affect me, is gone. But I kind of just want that again. That old way of eating a normal breakfast, not worried about intermittent fasting or what I might snack on later or what time I’ll have lunch.