Aha! A journey through the history of porridge, from the rugged landscapes of Scotland to the Alpine world of Switzerland.
Porridge, once widely considered an affordable, robust food, has become one of the world's most popular superfoods. We take a look at the exciting origin story of this local and now internationally enjoyed food, traveling from Scotland to Switzerland.
In the late Middle Ages, oatmeal helped Swiss farmers and their horses traverse the harshest Alpine peaks while battling waist-deep snow and subzero temperatures. Today, you can still see workhorses in the Swiss Alps with sacks of oats around their necks, while oatmeal drizzled with honey or as muesli is a staple in most Swiss households and cafés.
Origin of porridge.
Porridge – oats traditionally cooked in milk or water – has been a popular breakfast in British households for centuries. But compared to grains like barley and wheat, oats have taken a long time to reach our tables. The origin of oats is believed to be in Western Europe, and references to wild oats date back thousands of years. However, archaeologists believe that while oats were allowed to grow among the more popular varieties of barley and wheat, they were rarely used for human consumption.
As with rye, it would take several centuries before oats went from being a weed to being a cultivated plant. The Romans, needing a cheap, weather-resistant crop to produce large quantities of animal feed, were the first to grow oats as feed for their horses, mules and oxen. Because they are easier to peel than spelled, resistant, and easy to grow, oats remained popular as animal feed for hundreds of years, although they were used less frequently for human consumption.
Scotland, master of porridge.
During the Middle Ages in Scotland, where only the hardiest grains could thrive due to lack of sunshine and high humidity, oats became an increasingly important part of people's diets. Oatmeal, far more reliable in harsh weather than wheat or corn crops, quickly became the staple diet of the lower classes - oats that were hulled, steamed and flattened.
Local variations such as gruel (a thinner version of porridge), sauans (a thick drink made from fermented oats) and hasty pudding (a thicker, sweet porridge that also served as dessert) played an important role in the Scottish diet over the next 1,000 years . Today the porridge, made with water and a pinch of salt, is as symbolic of Scotland as whiskey, bagpipes and haggis.
Oats for crossing the Alps.
But the story of this simple and versatile grain doesn't end at the Scottish border. In Switzerland, for example, a country with equally harsh winters and mountainous terrain, filling and easy-to-prepare oatmeal helped farmers and their horses traverse the Alpine peaks while battling waist-deep snow and subzero temperatures.
Today, you can still see workhorses in the Swiss Alps carrying sacks of oatmeal around their necks as food, while oatmeal drizzled with honey and oatmeal muesli with fresh berries are part of breakfast in most Swiss households and cafés. Swiss athletes also know: thanks to the slowly released carbohydrates, oatmeal is recommended as a healthy meal before and after training.
The natural superfood.
In fact, it's no wonder why oats are so popular. Packed with fiber, vitamin B and minerals such as calcium, potassium and iron, it is one of the most nutritionally valuable grains on our planet. They are also particularly rich in beta-glucans - natural sugars that protect the intestinal wall and can lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
The growing appreciation for the oat grain is also encouraging sustainable production methods, and companies are scrambling to meet the demand for more environmentally friendly agricultural practices. For example, as a manufacturer based in Switzerland, we have expanded our range of health products to include porridge and only use certified Swiss organic oats, meaning the grain is grown completely free of genetic engineering and pesticides. The ingredients - from the oats to the milk protein to the berries with which the porridges are naturally sweetened - come from local Swiss farms, and the packaging is completely biodegradable. Also an innovation from us.
The humble oat grain has come a long way. Once considered a cheap food for the working class, today it is valued as a healthy food. In Switzerland, where oats have been part of the culinary culture for centuries, the grain is experiencing its greatest boom since Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner in the 19th century. With our tasty organic porridges with organic cocoa nibs, apples and berries, cinnamon and FOS and many other delicious ingredients, we would also like to pave the way for this ancient dish to make healthier, more sustainable breakfasts the first choice in Europe and beyond .
Timeline through the history of porridge:
Looking for a cheap, weather-resistant grain to feed their animals, the Romans began growing oats in large quantities.
Early medieval era
Porridge appears in Scotland. A more reliable grain than wheat or corn in the country's harsh weather conditions, oats are mixed with water and become a staple diet for the lower classes.
Late Middle Ages
In Switzerland, oatmeal becomes a hit with farmers and is used to fortify horses who need a hearty meal when crossing the Alps. Oats are becoming a staple food for working people in Switzerland.
The Swiss doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner popularized muesli (oat flakes in combination with nuts, seeds and fresh or dried fruits) and promoted oats as a healthy breakfast for the masses, including the upper class.
Nutrition experts like BE THE CHANGE recommend porridge sweetened with fruits and cocoa as a healthy, energy-giving superfood. The demand for environmentally friendly, regenerative production processes is growing.