RT Cunningham


Porridge - Oatmeal, Farina and Grits are the Most Common

porridge I didn’t know what the word “porridge” meant until I was already old enough to be a grandfather. Most Americans know the names of the products and what the ingredients are, but not that specific word. The products become a porridge when cooked (usually boiled).

You may know them as oatmeal (oats), farina (wheat) and grits (corn or hominy). Many Americans can remember the brand names even if they can’t remember the ingredients. Grits are popular in the American South, so I wouldn’t know any brand names for them since I never spent any time in the South. For oatmeal, it’s Quaker Oats. For farina, it’s Cream of Wheat or Malt-O-Meal.

Goldilocks and her Porridge

The first time I noticed the word was when I was reading the “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” fairy tale as a child. Goldilocks ate it while the bears took a walk to wait for the porridge to cool down.

The story never mentioned what kind of porridge it was. I never thought to ask anyone what the word meant.

Peas Porridge Hot

I heard this nursery rhyme when I was already an adult:

Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold,
Peas porridge in the pot, nine days old;
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, nine days old

Made from peas? Maybe gruel would be a better word for it, like split-pea soup or something.


I always have oats in the house. I usually buy Quaker Oats, but not always. I’ll save the “tube” and store a generic brand in it on occasion.

I don’t like eating oatmeal often. It tends to make me feel full and bloated regardless of how much I eat of it.


As I said earlier, I wouldn’t know any brand names. I ate grits for the first time after Aunt Sarah left after her 2015 visit. She left a container of grits behind.

She’s in the Philippines again, on vacation. She sent two balikbayan boxes months ahead of her with food in them. A huge bag of grits were for me. It’s a generic brand she bought at Costco, a membership store like Sam’s Club. I’ve already had some for breakfast.

Grits make me feel as full and bloated as oatmeal. I won’t eat them often for that very reason.


My mother boiled Cream of Wheat when I was young. The taste didn’t bother me but it always had lumps in it. A person could choke to death on those lumps. I prefer eating shredded wheat, like Weet-Bix imported from Australia, when I can find it.

I haven’t eaten any brand of farina since I left home in 1978, even though a Malt-O-Meal commercial advertisement aired regularly for at least a year. Good stuff, Maynard!

Farina is not to be confused with harina, the Spanish and Tagalog word for flour (also made from wheat).

And there you have it. Everything I know and the experience I’ve had with whatever porridge I can think of.

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By RT Cunningham
March 28, 2017
Food and Drink

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