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The backbone of the Scottish diet over the centuries has been oatmeal, eaten in its many variations - gruel, brose, crowdie, porridge, oatcakes and a variety of scones and puddings.

The sound advice from Dr Winifred M Ewing MSP to her younger colleague Andrew Wilson MSP that "You've got to get a breakfast, eat well in the morning and get excercise. Swim - that's what I do" was a timely reminder that this column , to date, hasn't featured the finest Scottish breakfast feast - porridge ( parritch ). Porridge, referred to by our National Bard, Robert Burns,  as 'chief o Scotia's food' is still a national breakfast dish, undoubtedly enjoyed by Winnie Ewing. The auld Scots saying 'A staunan poke fills the fu'est' is a reminder that in the good old days, porridge was eaten standing up! Milk to accompany porridge was always served in a separate bowl  and each spoonful of porridge was dunked in the milk bowl. The traditional porridge stick is called a spurtle or sometimes a theevil - every Scottish home should have one.
There was traditionally in days gone by a 'porridge drawer' which was filled with porridge, which, of course, grew cold and solid and was subsequently cut into squares and could be taken as a travelling 'piece' and eaten out of doors.
Ingredients : 2 rounded tablespoons medium cut oatmeal; 1/2 pint water; salt, to taste
Bring water to boil in saucepan, sprinkle in oatmeal, stirring continuously to avoid lumps, over reduced heat until it comes back to the boil. Let it cook very slowly for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salt, to taste, half way through cooking. Pour into a soup bowl and 'sup up yir parritch' and like Winnie start your day by eating well.

Hamlynís Scottish Porridge Oats, produced in Boyndie near Banff



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