Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Miracle of Mush. . . or, in Praise of Porridge

(Please forgive me if you have read some of the posts in years past. They are all from other blogs, blogs that are no longer active.)

We eat mush for breakfast most everyday. A lot of people give me blank stares when I saymush, so I then say porridge, which most people know of from Goldilocks. But to my boys, it's mush, which for some reason is far funnier than porridge. I don't mind what they call it, as long as they are eating it.

I'd love to say that I was inspired to eat mush by the R4A, but we were eating it long before we took up the challenge. By the time the Riot rolled around we had even jettisoned those individual packages designed to make mush less scary for the masses.

What is mush, or porridge if you prefer? Grains, chopped fine or rolled, cooked with copious amounts of water. There is nary a culture the world over that doesn't feature some sort of porridge as part of its traditional cuisine, and not just for breakfast, either.

My generation didn't grow up with mush, not in a daily, life-sustaining way. No, we had Trix, Cap'n Crunch, Lucky Charms, Count Chocula, Cookie Crisp, and more. My favorite was Frosted Flakes, and Tony the Tiger was my childhood breakfast hero. Every now and then my dad would try to go healthy on us and buy Rice Krispies, Life, Cheerios, Kix, or horror of horrors,Raisin Bran. These cereals sat mostly untouched until they went stale and were pitched into the garbage. Who was he trying to kid? Even my mother added sugar to her Sugar Smacks cereal.

We did have little packets of Cream of Wheat and Quaker Oats, always purchased in a variety pack. We'd start with the maple syrup flavored packets, then the brown sugar cinnamon, and finally the unflavored oats. We never ate the packets with little bits of dehydrated apple in them.

People seem to know that hot grain cereals are healthy. After all, I've yet to hear of the person who serves Fruity Pebbles as a baby's first cereal. Babies are perhaps the group of Americans who eat the most mush. They start with rice cereals (and brown rice is an option), and move to oatmeal and wheat farina. They eat them happily until they realize that Mom is eating Honey Bunches of Oats or Frosted Mini Wheats, or perhaps Nutrigrain Cereal Bars or Pop Tarts. Then the mush eating stops.

Mush is a riot-friendly breakfast. Living where I live, I can't pretend that my mush is comprised of local grains (but I do get tomatoes in January), however, the makings for mush fall under the dry, bulk goods category of the Riotous food plan. Huge bags of grains arrive on my door step or the co-op truck; organic brown rice farina, organic toasted gluten free rolled oats, organic medium grind cornmeal. Other folks I know love the Scottish oats, or whole rice made into rice porridge, or mixed grains. Buckwheat porridge and quinoa flakes line the shelves at my organic grocery.

The easiest way to make mush is using an electric rice cooker and setting it the night before. It will draw a small amount of electricity overnight and then for the 1 -2 hours that it is actually cooking the mush. Perhaps just as easy, but not instantaneously gratifying the moment you jump (crawl?) out of bed, is soaking the grains with half the cooking water in the cooking pot overnight. Upon waking you add the rest of the water, bring to a boil, and depending on the grain you cook the mush until it is ready, or cover it, turn off the heat, and wait.

Did you notice the soaking of the grain? It's important. It releases enzymes and unlocks nutrients. Even better is adding a dash of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar as you soak the grains, if you don't have children who will then refuse the mush because of the slightly acidic taste.

We use both methods to cook our mush, as preferences vary around here and some nights we need to cook both oatmeal and cornmeal mush. One child in particular is well, particular about his mush, and so we use the rice cooker for him. We still come out ahead in terms of the Riot.

We almost always have leftovers. They are easy to handle and wonderful to have on hand. I just reheat them in a pan, adding milk or water as needed, and mashing them with my potato/bean masher until the lumps are gone and they are smooth and hot.

Mush, it's what's for breakfast.

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