Narcissism of small (porridge) differences

Emer O Hanlon 26 February 2017

I’d always thought that the food section was rather an uncontroversial one, but that was before I started asking people about the best way to make a bowl of porridge. That porridge is attractive to students is hardly difficult to understand – it’s cheap, hearty, warming and filling. However, much as porridge can be a great uniting force among friends, so too can it create rifts between people. Personally, I use a ½ cup each of oats, almond milk and water. Microwave for three minutes (cooking on the hob creates extra washing up, and I’ve never been able to taste any difference), then stir through a teaspoon of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Sometimes I go for maple syrup instead of honey, but that’s the only time I innovate. I like to jazz things up in the kitchen, but at breakfast, I like to stick to what I know works! However, as you can see below, the student opinion on this question is varied….

I tend to use Quaker Oats with semi-skimmed milk. Generally I cook my porridge in the microwave to save time and washing up. The search for the "Goldilocks Zone" of porridge consistency is a personal struggle of mine. Each day I alter the cooking time and the ratio of milk to oats to try and find a consistency which is "just right" – not too runny or stodgy. I like to add golden syrup/honey and occasionally grated apple! If I feel like a particularly decadent breakfast I may also add some cream. Isaac Johnston

A childhood aversion to any soggy foods left me firmly in the cereal camp, but an iffy tummy and some online recommendations led me to the oat world a few months ago. I am thus but a novice; my inexperience combined with my shitty gyp means I make my porridge in the microwave. You may sneer, but the key to this is using a combination of water and almond milk to cook, and cooling it down with cow's milk. You can then add a dash of honey, with some banana or blueberries. Sometimes, when I'm feeling especially adventurous, I put in some hot chocolate powder instead, and it works a charm. Amiya Nagpal

My favourite oats are Sainsbury's own brand, which make for a smoother consistency. 30g oats and 200ml water for 2min in the microwave, then add 100ml milk (I use full fat UHT), and heat for 1min. I went through a phase of trying to increase my protein intake, and I'm now in the habit of adding a whisked egg, and microwaving for another minute. If microwaved too long, this step can be a disaster, leaving a cake-y texture that just isn't what you want. But if done well, it's fine. My fave topping is a tbsp of crunchy peanut butter (for the protein, again), and then either jam – must be a tart one, like raspberry – or chocolate sprinkles (Dutch hagelslag). I vary toppings a lot else I'd get well bored, so other toppings I enjoy are cinnamon and sugar, or golden syrup. Laura Nunez-Mulder

Growing up without a microwave means I am used to the creamy goodness of pan-cooked porridge, so on a day I feel particularly inspired, I break my usual microwave routine at uni and treat myself. There are so many ways to make porridge great, but my fave has to be oats and water in a saucepan, with salt (to taste). When it's cooked and creamy and yummy slice a medium ripe banana over the top and enjoy. I don't like it too stodgy, so don't overcook it. If I'm feeling extra special I'll drizzle some honey over the top, and maybe a few chia seeds just to assert the middle class Cambridge stereotype. Lili Bidwell

Not a huge fan myself but I used to enjoy that weird American oatmeal stuff with honey and blueberries. Sometimes banana too but that can be a little filling. Oatmeal is not porridge and the difference confused me, but I’m not a purist in the porridge sphere. Helen Gillard

I always go for the whole rolled chunky oats, because I like a chunkier consistency. I do roughly half-and-half water and milk (I've used almond milk recently, and can't tell the difference) and do it on the hob, because I'm scared of the microwave. After having been introduced to peanut butter in porridge by Laura (above), I've never looked back. My preferred sweet accompaniment is sliced banana. With the control of cooking on the hob, my struggle is not consistency but amount. From morning to morning, I can make a porridge that is far too small for breakfast or one that is impossible to finish. Of course, I could use a mug to measure it out, but that never occurs in the time between getting up and drinking coffee. Bruno Barton-Singer

Because I'm lazy and get up later than actual productive people, I always cook my porridge in the microwave with a small handful (think a seven-year-old's fist) of oats and about a centimetre of water above that. Quick mix, then microwave on high for about a minute. (I should probably add that I have only a very basic knowledge of how both microwaves and porridge works, so that could be wildly inaccurate, but bear with me!) After the first round in the microwave, I throw in a handful (same seven-year-old-sized fist, but probably using the other, less oaty hand) of assorted frozen berries and put it back in for about another thirty seconds, basically until the fruit is defrosted. After that, it’s just a splash of milk, a spoonful of Greek yoghurt and a sprinkle of brown sugar, and you’re set! Beatrice Obe

When I was sailing up in bonny Scotland, the cap'n (a gruff old sea dog called Andy) hauled up sea water in a bucket and used that to make porridge (boiled of course for hygiene reasons, we're not complete barbarians). It made the porridge deliciously salty, which is of course the traditional Scottish way. Frances Myatt