There are plenty of foods or dishes that are Jamaican staples, but no one holds pride of place quite like porridge. Yup, that thick, creamy substance we grew up eating for breakfast before heading out to school is a Jamaican favourite. Indeed, many people took it for granted until they went overseas to live, study or work and then they recognised just how much they miss their mother’s or grandmother’s cooking, particularly her porridge.
It’s a meal typically consumed as a breakfast dish or cereal prepared with boiling water and crushed or chopped starchy plants, vegetables or grains, is often mixed with spices, a sweetener and usually served hot in a bowl. Porridge is standard in Jamaica and the Caribbean, but in other parts of the world, depending on its consistency it can be thinner in nature and therefore referred to as a ‘gruel’.
So, you have porridge and then you have the ‘propa propa’ porridge with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, rose water, salt, evaporated and/or condensed milk and some people even add pimento seeds for a kick of flavour. Now, while the ingredients may be somewhat standard, the types and kinds are not, and everyone has their favourite that they swear by.
So, why do Jamaican people love porridge so much? For some, it is nostalgic as it reminds them of home, of family and of precious sweet memories of a nicer, kinder, simpler life, of childhood and childlike things. A few will even tell you that as children they hated porridge, but as adults, they learnt to love that sweet meal. When feeling ‘gassy’, sick or experiencing extreme cold or a long rainy spell, nothing steps up to the plate quite like porridge, as it is satisfying in a manner that will make you both belch and put a smile on your face. Such is its culinary potency.
A quick poll was done to determine which type of porridge was the champion of all champions. So which porridge was crowned king? Hominy corn ruled the roost hands down because it is said to be chewy, filling and overall flavourful, just like how grandma made it. Cornmeal came second while banana a close third. Interestingly, no one said plantain, a few persons said oats and just one person preferred peanut. There were a bunch of people who jumped on the ‘all of them’ bandwagon. Cannot say I blame them.
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