The history of oats in one bowl – Russian Oatmeal

All my kids are down with a cold.  I think I’m coming down with it too.  It only makes sense.  I just got into a habit of bragging that I’ve got through the winter without one sniffle.  No bragging should go unpunished.  Whenever I feel off sorts, I start craving comfort foods from my childhood. Russian Oatmeal is one of them.  There might be some Russians reading this blog, who would look at the following recipe and say, “that’s not Russian!  I’m Russian and we never cooked oatmeal this way in my family.”  And I think that’s just shows that Russia is a big country: many people, many methods, many traditions.  The reason I call this method Russian is that is how my grandma cooked it.  What is more that’s how Russian peasants cooked it, according to my grandmother’s old and tattered cookbook.  For a Russian peasant food was a very serious business.  It had to be rich, simple, comforting and filling.  They were often engaged in hard physical labor from dawn till dusk.  The food had to sustain them, to nurture them, to power them through.  “Shchi da kasha – pischa nashaCabbage soup and porridge – that’s our food, goes famous Russian saying.

 

It’s interesting to know that oats were considered weed-like plant for centuries before being cultivated.  Wheat and barley were cultivated and liked, but oats were thrown away.  The oldest known oats were found in Egypt among the remains of the 12th Dynasty (about 2,000BC). Archaeologists concluded that it didn’t seem as if oats were cultivated by Egyptians and were probably weeds.   At some undetermined point in history wild oats mutated to develop into oats that we know today and started to gain in popularity.  At first, as horse feed, and for young stock and poultry.  Slowly there was an increase in oats use for human consumption.  Today, of course, the benefits of oats are documented in hundreds of studies.  Russia consumes 6,000 metric tons of oats per year (that’s 13,230,000lb).  USA is in the second place with the consumption of 3,422 metric tons (that’s 7,545,510lb) (Did I count it correctly?  1 metric ton is equal to 2,205lb.  At any rate the number is significantly larger than I can imagine in my mind’s eyes.)

 

This method of cooking oats is what I call labor intensive.  In order to cook one pot of oats you actually need to get two pots dirty.  If you are a Cooking Minimalist, you might not be interested in trying oats the Russian way.  It’s also not for Sugar Addicts.  No maple syrup or sugar in this recipe!  It’s a solid meal.

 

Russian Oatmeal
Ingredients
2 cups hard rolled oats
1 cup milk
2 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 Tablespoons butter

 
  • Note the time.  You don’t want to cook the oats for more than 5 minutes.  
  • Put oats and water in the first pot and turn the heat to “high.”  (Now my grandma would have laughed heartily at my 2 1/4 cup of water.  She never measured anything.  She always went by how it felt.  So what you are going for here is that oats are just barely covered with water.  If you are using a big pot and things are spread out a bit, just use more water). 
  • Add a cup of milk to the second pot and turn the heat to “high.”  Don’t forget to stir your oats, while you are waiting for the milk to boil.  Ideally, you want to time it in such a way that the milk boils when oats have been cooking for 3 minutes, and all the water from the oats is just about all gone.  
  • Dump boiling milk into the oats stirring the whole time.  Add 1 teaspoon salt (and I know, it’s too much for most people, but peasants sweated a lot, so they needed the salt).  Add two tablespoons butter.   Has it been five minutes yet?  If yes, turn off the heat and remove the pot off the burner.  It will look like on a pic below, but will thicken in a few minutes.
  • Serve immediately.  Still piping hot.  That’s the only way to eat it.   

Note: I have tried in the past to boil milk in the microwave.  It always boils over.  And then I have to clean the microwave.  So I don’t try that anymore.  But maybe microwave will work for you. 

 

How do you eat your oats?
                                                                                                           

 

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