Wednesday, April 1, 2009

This is my entry for Novel Food. Its from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Jane has a bad experience with oatmeal. To make up for it Miss Temple gives the girls a nice lunch of bread and cheese. I decided to give Jane a Ploughman's Lunch. A nice piece of stilton, some ploughman's pickle, some pickled onions and a roll. Yum!!! Following the quote from the book is a treatise on how to make oatmeal by my guest blogger husband. If only he'd been there at Lowood and they had a microwave they would never have had a bad bowl of porridge!!!

The refectory was a great, low-ceiled, gloomy room; on two long tables
smoked basins of something hot, which, however, to my dismay, sent forth
an odour far from inviting. I saw a universal manifestation of
discontent when the fumes of the repast met the nostrils of those
destined to swallow it; from the van of the procession, the tall girls of
the first class, rose the whispered words--

"Disgusting! The porridge is burnt again!"

"Silence!" ejaculated a voice; not that of Miss Miller, but one of the
upper teachers, a little and dark personage, smartly dressed, but of
somewhat morose aspect, who installed herself at the top of one table,
while a more buxom lady presided at the other. I looked in vain for her
I had first seen the night before; she was not visible: Miss Miller
occupied the foot of the table where I sat, and a strange,
foreign-looking, elderly lady, the French teacher, as I afterwards found,
took the corresponding seat at the other board. A long grace was said
and a hymn sung; then a servant brought in some tea for the teachers, and
the meal began.

Ravenous, and now very faint, I devoured a spoonful or two of my portion
without thinking of its taste; but the first edge of hunger blunted, I
perceived I had got in hand a nauseous mess; burnt porridge is almost as
bad as rotten potatoes; famine itself soon sickens over it. The spoons
were moved slowly: I saw each girl taste her food and try to swallow it;
but in most cases the effort was soon relinquished. Breakfast was over,
and none had breakfasted. Thanks being returned for what we had not got,
and a second hymn chanted, the refectory was evacuated for the
schoolroom. I was one of the last to go out, and in passing the tables,
I saw one teacher take a basin of the porridge and taste it; she looked
at the others; all their countenances expressed displeasure, and one of
them, the stout one, whispered--

"Abominable stuff! How shameful!"

A little later in the day Miss Temple comes to the rescue.

"I have a word to address to the pupils," said she.

The tumult of cessation from lessons was already breaking forth, but it
sank at her voice. She went on--

"You had this morning a breakfast which you could not eat; you must be
hungry:--I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese shall be served
to all."

The teachers looked at her with a sort of surprise.

"It is to be done on my responsibility," she added, in an explanatory
tone to them, and immediately afterwards left the room.

The bread and cheese was presently brought in and distributed, to the
high delight and refreshment of the whole school. The order was now
given "To the garden!" Each put on a coarse straw bonnet, with strings
of coloured calico, and a cloak of grey frieze. I was similarly
equipped, and, following the stream, I made my way into the open air.

The garden was a wide inclosure, surrounded with walls so high as to
exclude every glimpse of prospect; a covered verandah ran down one side,
and broad walks bordered a middle space divided into scores of little
beds: these beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to cultivate,
and each bed had an owner. When full of flowers they would doubtless
look pretty; but now, at the latter end of January, all was wintry blight
and brown decay. I shuddered as I stood and looked round me: it was an
inclement day for outdoor exercise; not positively rainy, but darkened by
a drizzling yellow fog; all under foot was still soaking wet with the
floods of yesterday. The stronger among the girls ran about and engaged
in active games, but sundry pale and thin ones herded together for
shelter and warmth in the verandah; and amongst these, as the dense mist
penetrated to their shivering frames, I heard frequently the sound of a
hollow cough.

A few days later Mr. Brocklehurst has this to say about giving the girls bread and cheese:

"Well, for once it may pass; but please not to let the circumstance occur
too often. And there is another thing which surprised me; I find, in
settling accounts with the housekeeper, that a lunch, consisting of bread
and cheese, has twice been served out to the girls during the past
fortnight. How is this? I looked over the regulations, and I find no
such meal as lunch mentioned. Who introduced this innovation? and by
what authority?"

"I must be responsible for the circumstance, sir," replied Miss Temple:
"the breakfast was so ill prepared that the pupils could not possibly eat
it; and I dared not allow them to remain fasting till dinner-time."

"Madam, allow me an instant. You are aware that my plan in bringing up
these girls is, not to accustom them to habits of luxury and indulgence,
but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying. Should any little
accidental disappointment of the appetite occur, such as the spoiling of
a meal, the under or the over dressing of a dish, the incident ought not
to be neutralised by replacing with something more delicate the comfort
lost, thus pampering the body and obviating the aim of this institution;
it ought to be improved to the spiritual edification of the pupils, by
encouraging them to evince fortitude under temporary privation. A brief
address on those occasions would not be mistimed, wherein a judicious
instructor would take the opportunity of referring to the sufferings of
the primitive Christians; to the torments of martyrs; to the exhortations
of our blessed Lord Himself, calling upon His disciples to take up their
cross and follow Him; to His warnings that man shall not live by bread
alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God; to His
divine consolations, "If ye suffer hunger or thirst for My sake, happy
are ye." Oh, madam, when you put bread and cheese, instead of burnt
porridge, into these children's mouths, you may indeed feed their vile
bodies, but you little think how you starve their immortal souls!"

Now my guest blogger will demonstrate how to make quick meals with three different types of oatmeal and a microwave oven.

The first type is steel cut or pinhead oatmeal, which is by far the trickiest to do with a microwave, as it requires more water and under normal circumstances at least a much longer time to cook. The first step is to measure out a portion (I use a quarter cup with this kind of oatmeal).

After quite a bit of experimenting, I developed this technique for softening up the pinhead oats. I use a metal measuring cup to crush the oats a bit before pouring in the water - just a quick crushing all around the bowl is enough - more if you prefer the oats to be softer. It could be done with a pestle, but I find the metal measuring cup convenient as I'm usually in a hurry.

With other kinds of oatmeal, I use twice the measure of water to oats, but with pinhead oatmeal I use three times the measure - i.e., for one quarter cup of oats, I add three quarters of a cup of water. Salt is a matter of taste and preference of course, but I love the taste of plain oatmeal, and the small measure of salt from the spoon of our "salt pig" is for me the perfect way to bring out the flavor. I add the same amount of salt for all the different kinds of oatmeal.

I cook the pinhead oatmeal a little bit longer than usual in the microwave. I put it on high for four minutes, and the result, stirred slightly, can be seen below.

The next type is the classic rolled oats (the type made famous by the regular Quaker Oats, though Quaker also makes pinhead now in smaller containers). For this I use whatever measuring cup is handy - in this case a plastic one, and I like to use one third of a cup of oats.

With one third of a cup of oats, I add two thirds of a cup of water and the usual salt pig spoonful of salt. (Many recipes suggest one half cup, in which case a full cup of water would be needed.)

I used to cook it on high in the microwave for three minutes, but now use the one button "popcorn" setting, which cooks for two minutes and thirty-five seconds, which I find sufficient. The result can be seen below.

The third type of oatmeal is made with "porage" oats. These are stone ground or milled and produce a softer, more densely textured oatmeal. As with the rolled oats, I use a third of a cup of oatmeal.

I use either two thirds of a cup of water or occasionally a sixth of a cup more, mixing in the usual amount of salt. As the picture below demonstrates, the porage oats immediately interact with the water, eventually absorbing it.

I cook the porage oats for the "popcorn" setting also. The finished product is stickier than the others, but equally delicious.

Finally, here is a picture of various brands that I have enjoyed.


Lisa said...

I must say, I would rather have the bread and cheese than the oatmeal! Very interesting post, and nice to reread parts of the novel.

Thanks much for taking part in our event.

Simona said...

Wow! Your guest blogger has applied himself scientifically to the task. Agree with Lisa: it was a pleasure to read again those passages of a beloved novel. Thanks for participating.