Some like it hot: U.S. cedes Golden Spurtle cup back to the Scots
I wouldn’t have necessarily placed the United States as prime porridge territory but, in fact, Bob’s Red Mill was last year’s Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Champion. Alas, if we need any further proof that we’re no longer enjoying The American Century, the coveted prize has reverted back to the Old World, won by “Scotsman Neal Robertson, who owns the Tannochbrae Tearoom in Auchtermuchty.” Which he should have, based solely on the name of his tearoom, and the name of the town it’s located in. Hoot, mon! (Source: WSJ.) At least we didn’t lose to India or China.
Although they didn’t repeat a win of what the Bob Red Mill VP of Sales, Robert Agnew, terms “the Academy Awards of oatmeal”, just being invited to contend is no small deal:
“The cook-off has been gaining popularity among spectators and contestants, but only 15 lucky teams make the cut each year. On game day, they produce two dishes: the traditional porridge, made only with oats, salt and water, and a specialty dish, made with other ingredients. (The winner of the traditional porridge takes the spurtle trophy.)
I didn’t know what a spurtle was – it’s what you use to stir the pot – but I have yet to meet the starch-based dish I wasn’t delighted to dip my spoon into. Insipid Beechnut baby food oatmeal, to real rolled oats, I have always loved porridge – even though in real life I call it just plain old oatmeal.
We ate plenty of oatmeal for breakfast as kids – and it had to be with raisins. How well I remember when my mother was in the hospital having my brother Rick, and my father attempted to feed three little mouths with raisin-less oatmeal. Poor man, here he was worried about his newborn premie, not to mention the impending arrival of my grandmother from Chicago, and he had a kid mutiny on his hands. Somehow, he just didn’t get that eating oatmeal without raisins was, to a child’s palate, akin to eating a bucket of wallpaper paste.
And forget I said “child’s palate.” Much as I like oatmeal, it really does need to be doctored up somehow: raisins, nuts, cinnamon, dried fruit. Something. Or it is, to this adult’s palate, akin to eating a bucket of wallpaper paste.
Bob’s Red Mill Oatmeal probably tasted – or at least looked better - than that:
"We worked really hard for about three months, preparing about three times a week and working with a food stylist," says Dennis Gilliam, a partner in charge of sales and marketing, who attended the event. "We'll be back, no doubt."
A food stylist, no less.
How does one style oatmeal so that it doesn’t look like a glop o’ starch? All the almonds and dried apricots in the world can’t really disguise what oatmeal looks like. Nor should they. There’s something comfy, homey, and honest about oatmeal that just defies food styling.
Since I just saw this article, I missed year’s World Porridge Day, which is associated with the Golden Spurtle, and provides meals to children in some of the world’s most destitute countries. But I will throw a modest check in the mail to the Boston Food Bank. And I’ll pay further tribute to porridge in my own small way.
Today promises to be rainy-dreary-fally. Porridge weather. I will get out my spurtle (a.k.a., wooden spoon), and my tin of McCann’s Irish Oatmeal (true to my heritage, no Scots oats for me, thank you), and make myself a nice sup of porridge. I’m thinking walnuts, almonds, raisins, dried cranberries, and maybe even some fresh blueberries. I can’t wait to stick it to my ribs. Yum.
And, yes, next time I’m at the store, I’ll see if I can find some Bob’s Red Mill. Much as I like McCann’s, now’s the time to be a Made in America American, no?