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Features - Scottish Food, Traditions and Customs
Oatmeal Brose

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The inspiration for this new column came from the historic canoe journey made by Oliver Brown Award winners, Sir Alastair M Dunnett and James ( Seumas ) Adam, from Bowling on the Clyde to Skye in 1934. The expedition led to them being known as The Canoe Boys and the foodstuff which provided the back-bone of their diet, a foodstuff which had sustained Scots for centuries, was oatmeal. They preferred to have it, at least twice a day, in the form of oatmeal brose rather than as porridge. An account of how they made their brose was provided by Sir Alastair M Dunnett in 'Quest By Canoe', the story of their adventure published in 1950 and reprinted in 1995.

 

Oatmeal brose was the true foundation of the expedition, and the correct method of making it must be put on record. A quantity of coarse oatmeal - with salt 'to taste' as they say - is placed in a bowl and boiling water poured over it. The water must be boiling hard as it pours and there should be enough of it to just cover the oatmeal. A plate is immediately placed over the bowl like a lid. You now sit by for a few minutes, gloating. This is your brose cooking in its own steam. During this pause, slip a nut of butter under the plate and into the brose. In four or five minutes whip off the lid, stir the mass violently together, splash in some milk and eat. You will never again be happy with the wersh and fushionless silky slop which passes for porridge. This was the food whose devotees staggered the legions of Rome; broke the Norsemen; held the Border for five hundred years; and are standing fast on borders till. It is a dish for men. It also happens to taste superbly. We ate it twice a day, frequently without milk, although such a simplification demands what an Ayrshire farmer once described to me as a 'guid-gaun stomach'. He is a happy traveller who has with him a bag of oatmeal and a poke of salt. He will travel fast and far.'