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Porridge antics

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Oct. 20th, 2008 | 07:34 pm

I have been eating porridge for breakfast recently; apart from the cheapskate aspect (Tesco porridge oats, about 0.1p per gram) it doesn't generate crumbs and can be reasonably scooped up with a spoon in front of the computer. Also, complex carbs, all that.

It is interesting how pretty much every culture has some sort of porridge - mealie-meal in Africa, grits in America and so on. I expect it's mostly that large surviving cultures have usually cultivated some sort of grain and, well, boiling it and then eating the mush is a pretty obvious step. There are certainly plenty of modifications though. For instance, I never knew quite what hominy grits actually were, but it turns out that they involve nixtamalization, basically treating the grain with an alkali before cooking and hulling. Coincidentally:
The primary nutritional benefits of nixtamalization arise from the alkaline processing involved. These conditions convert corn's bound niacin to free niacin, making it available for absorption into the body. Alkalinity also reduces the amount of the protein zein available to the body, which, though this reduces the overall amount of protein, improves the balance among essential amino acids.

Secondary benefits can arise from the grain's absorption of minerals from the alkali used or from the vessels used in preparation. These effects can increase calcium (by 750%, with 85% available for absorption), iron, copper and zinc.

Lastly, nixtamalization significantly reduces (by 90-94%) mycotoxins produced by Fusarium verticillioides and Fusarium proliferatum, molds that commonly infect maize and the toxins of which are putative carcinogens.
This comes under the category of "how the hell did anyone think of that"? Evolutionary cuisine I expect.

Anyway, I'm not entirely sure I quite have the idea of porridge. I cook it with water, and then add salt and maybe honey, and butter, which I understand is all fairly regular, but then I tend to do things like put chilli sauce in it. Though I do put chilli sauce into everything. Oh well.

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Comments {14}

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The Princess of Id

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from: danaseilhan
date: Oct. 20th, 2008 08:35 pm (UTC)
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Buckwheat's not a true grain. It's related to rhubarb. Now, it being a seed, it's likely loaded with phytates and enzyme inhibitors adapted to keep the seeds from sprouting until they are in optimal conditions to do so.

I've heard of traditional porridges being fermented but not of anyone trying nixtamalizing with any other grain but maize. It's possible that the coat of the maize seed is tougher than that of other seeds, making the lime water necessary; fermentation may suffice for the others.

Sourdough is a great example of fermentation for true grains aside from maize. It eats away the phytic acid, releasing its locked-up phosphorous, and predigests the grain to make it easier for humans to assimilate. But you have to do it right. I recently began my own wild-caught starter and it's ridiculously easy to do.

The book Nourishing Traditions has some recipes for things like fermented African millet porridge. I don't believe every single thing I've read in that book but I think the basic food prep techniques are sound, and I think most of us would be a lot healthier if we'd incorporate some of those techniques at home. Certainly, having whole grains in the diet would be better for us if we'd prepare them properly.

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The Princess of Id

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from: danaseilhan
date: Oct. 20th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
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My little girl's dad jokes about being Random Fact Man™. I'm Random Fact Woman™. :P

This stuff's at the forefront of my mind recently because I finally found that book at the library, and wouldn't you know, all of a sudden I find people talking about it. Right down to the woman on Freecycle who had kefir grains on offer (fermented milk is mentioned in the book as well). So now I can make kefir for free. :)

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RATELS!!!!

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from: mordantcarnival
date: Oct. 20th, 2008 06:56 pm (UTC)
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When I was on the dole I'd buy a big bag of whatever starchy goop was cheapest then live off that for as long as possible, over a week in some cases. I ended up having porridge a lot, so things like chilli sauce inevitably crept into the picture. Black pepper. Marmite. Bulk mixed herbs. Cocoa powder and sugar.

There's a fatwah out on me in Scotland.

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Nina

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from: janinazew
date: Oct. 20th, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
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Interestingly every culture also has an equivalent to baked beans on toast.

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The Princess of Id

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from: danaseilhan
date: Oct. 20th, 2008 08:40 pm (UTC)
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If you eat maize at all you should be nixtamalizing it. They used masa (the traditionally prepared maize) for everything from porridge to tortillas. The Spaniards took maize back to Europe but thought the lime water prep was just stupid native superstition or something equally unimportant and then the peasantry of Europe was stricken with a pellagra epidemic.

Come to find out the southern U.S. suffered one as well, in the early 1900s. If you want to know where a lot of our craziness came from, I think it got a good hold during that time. And one generation badly nourished gives rise to another which is. Now, I also recently discovered that inbreeding among first cousins does not cause the higher rate of birth defects that everyone thought. So I'm thinking the traits that everyone else has historically blown off as signs of inbreeding among Southern people were actually traits of malnourishment going from generation to generation. Things weren't great anyway, but I think the pellagra set us back a lot worse. One of the symptoms is mental illness, another violent behavior... so there you go.

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fridgemagnet

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from: fridgemagnet
date: Oct. 20th, 2008 08:52 pm (UTC)
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I did read somewhere that the nixtamalization process was seen as mostly for husking when maize was imported to Europe, and there were lots of existing efficient husking techniques, so people just thought "well let's just do it our way".

It is interesting how many vital details of history can be related to details like this though. All the stuff I was taught was based around the traditional structure of Great Men, and Battles. I'd like to think that children today are taught a bit better but I bet anything they're not.

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The Princess of Id

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from: danaseilhan
date: Oct. 20th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
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This is why I'll be homeschooling. I think education should primarily be about teaching kids how to get along as adults, and I don't think feeding them a bunch of crap propaganda disguised as Important! Historical! Facts! accomplishes that in any meaningful way. Except for the kids who want to grow up to be crap propaganda distributors.

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The Princess of Id

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from: danaseilhan
date: Oct. 20th, 2008 11:21 pm (UTC)
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Also, I wouldn't be surprised to find that hominy and hominy grits became popular in the South very recently in its history. Somebody went "oh DUH" and introduced those foods and said, "Here. Corn that won't kill you."

I found out something else, too. If you get enough tryptophan in your diet it acts as sort of a buffer against pellagra--you can use niacin more efficiently or something, I dunno. So part of the problem was they weren't getting enough meat or milk. Which is odd, as many of them were hunters, but I guess some animals have more of it than others...? But only the big farmers owned cattle to any meaningful degree.

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soho_iced

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from: soho_iced
date: Oct. 21st, 2008 10:14 am (UTC)
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I was about to accuse you of being a geek but actually found that really interesting, though I doubt I'll ever break my Marmite on toast run (given the choice, since I was what - six?). I eat it for lunch too now: nutritious, low calorie, cheap, reduces time in the morning, and vegetarian. Everyone's a winner.

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Marmite

from: anonymous
date: Oct. 21st, 2008 02:23 pm (UTC)
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All a winner except for your arteries and blood pressure - salt laden!
OP

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(Deleted comment)

Scottish porridge

from: anonymous
date: Oct. 21st, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
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Should be a tot of whisky there somewhere too.

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