When I used to watch old movies as a child; gruel was served to orphans as an economic necessity. You certainly couldn’t feed hundreds of children steak and eggs on the city’s dime and Dickens loved using gruel as a metephor for cruelty. The Dickensian delights of the Victorian workhouse, immortalised in the moment when a starving Oliver Twist dares to ask for some more watery gruel.
In my family–the gruel came with much praise and many comments every day in January — undoubting the decision of its wholesomeness along with a small side bowl of prunes for everyone’s constitution. In today’s realm it would be much like yogurt attempts to advertise for the thoughts of regular constitution.
Gruel can actually be quite tasty they say. Mary Louise Deller Knight’s was not. Like the 1976 tune “Give Peace a Chance” I was instructed to give gruel a chance- every single day. The thin porridge has had a bad reputation with me ever since. My grandmother decided the month of January should be dedicated to getting everyone’s body ready for the rest of the Winter and layers of morning gruel lining my intestines would do it.
You know maybe if Grammy had followed the old recipe above I might have given it a chance. But- she made her slushy gruel, containing oats, water, milk and onion. That’s right — onion. As my grandfather would say:
“There’s no flavour at all without the onion.”
I begged to differ.
As she rejoyced about it ‘sticking to my insides’, today I would have retorted, “They call that Dysphagia!” In yesterday’s life it was “eat your meals or starve.”
Today, in these nutritionally conscious times, gruel is an all-rounder. It’s got all the carbs and water you need to barely survive for another day. For the health-conscious gruel can be made more interesting by adding bee pollen, maca, hemp seeds, coconut butter, lentil sprouts or fermented tree-nut cheese. Consider yourself warned this might become a new food trend!
Me? I think I will just eat my ethically-sourced, fair trade hat and avoid it like the Black Plague.