Porridge facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts

Porridge with milk

Porridge is a food which is made with a cereal, usually oats. The oats are boiled in water or milk, or both. It is usually served hot in a bowl or dish. Some people like to add things to their porridge such as sugar or syrup.

Porridge is a traditional food in many countries in Northern Europe. It is usually eaten for breakfast. In some countries barley or other grains may be used. Porridge can be cooked in saucepans or in a microwave. Traditionally, it may be cooked in large metal kettles over hot coals.

Porridge was traditionally served as food for prisoners in prisons. This is why in English there is a slang expression "doing porridge" which means "being in prison".

Porridge is often given to people who are ill because it is nourishing and it is easy to eat.

Semolina is similar to porridge but it is usually served as a pudding (a dessert).

Gruel is similar to porridge but is much more like a drink. It is not as nice as porridge, it is made with water. It was eaten by poor people in Victorian times. Oliver Twist, in the famous book by Charles Dickens, is given gruel to eat.


Porridge was one of the first dishes the human race learned how to make. This early kind of porridge would be made with water or milk, and grain. It is thought that porridge had a great effect on the future of the human race. In the Early Stone Age , women would breastfeed children to about five or six because the rough vegetation and meat was to tough for their weak teeth. The advent of porridge allowed women to stop breastfeeding earlier and therefore have more children, which could go on to populate the Earth. It's likely that the first porridge was made of wheat or barley in the Fertile Crescent , roughly 9000 BC. Hannibal's troops ate porridge before and during their famous crossing of the Alps. As the same army rampaged around Italy destroying food stocks the Romans were forced to eat porridge. As one historian put it, "the [ancient]Greeks had meals of two courses; the first a kind of porridge and the second a kind of porridge". Frumenty was a common site at the medieval dinner table and was made from wheat boiled in a meat broth. Monks and nuns dined on pottage, made by boiling onions and leeks in water ,for hundreds of years. During the Napoleonic wars sailors were fed porridge (probably due to it's small cost).

Culture and traditions of porridge

Due to porridge being one of the most ancient and widespread dishes it is obvious that it has come to have traditions and culture of it's own. Scotland is the place of origin of many of these. For example ,the porridge should be stirred with a special stirring stick ,called a spurtle, though alternative names include the thivel, theevil, spirtle or spurkel. It should also be stirred clockwise to ward off evil spirits. It is customary for porridge to be eaten standing up, some say this is for readiness in case an enemy should attack during the meal. In certain Scottish households, until relatively recent times a "porridge drawer" existed. This was a drawer in the kitchen dresser ,into which liquid porridge would be poured in the morning. It would solidify and could be cut into portable wedges or slabs to be carried to work and eaten later in the day.

In Verse and Art

A Scottish folk song called the "Seven Drunken Nights", which tells the story of a drunken landlord arriving home each evening of the week to (in his inebriation) ,mistake household objects for extraordinary ones. The second verse of the song goes:

A spurtle

Our gudeman came hame at e'en,

and hame came he.

And there he saw a shining sword,

Where nae sword should be.

What's this now gudewife,

and what's this I can see?

O how came this sword here

with the leave o' me?

A sword! Quo' she -aye ,a sword ! Quo he.

Shame fa' yere cuckold face,

And waur may ye see,

It's but a porridge spurtle

My mither sent to me.

A spurtle! Quo' he- Aye ,a spurtle! Quo she.

Far have I ridden , love,

And meikle hae I seen ,

But silver hiked spurtles

Saw I never nane.



Why is there no monument

to porridge in our land?

It it's good enough to eat

It's good enough to stand!

On a plinth in London

A statue we should see

Of Porridge made in Scotland

Signed, " Oatmeal, O.B.E"

(by a young dog dog of three)

William Hemsley Porridge
William Hemsley's Porridge

Spike Milligan

The thivel on the pottage pan, shall strike my hour to rise

Alexander Ross

William Hemsley's famous "Porridge"

Other pages

Images for kids

Porridge Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.