It is easy to overlook grains when studying cuisine. Even though the Prairie Provinces are blanketed in wheat, oats, barley, and the like, it isn’t always easy to find foods that celebrate these everyday ingredients. The common oat gets little attention in the professional kitchen, making the appearance of maple-fried porridge on a smattering of menus a welcome twist on an old standby. Porridge is a food of necessity, and to tell the truth I ate too much of it in childhood. Even alternating between cream of wheat and Red River Cereal, I found porridge monotonous.
This humble cereal has deep roots. Porridge has been made in Europe since at least the 16th century, and was a central staple in the settlement of Canada. It stores well, is easy to prepare, and can leftovers can be reheated or sliced and fried. And fried porridge, it turns out, is really quite delicious. The two versions I’ve encountered recently, one at Diner Deluxe in Calgary and one at Jam Cafe in Victoria, both were finished with a lemon curd cream that helped to cut the sweetness of the maple. The one served at Jam also made good use of blueberries, reminding me of the berry-studded bowls of porridge of my youth. Perhaps I’ve been too hard on porridge; innovative chefs can put a new spin on just about anything.