Monday, January 6, 2014

Porridge Weather

In Alpharetta, Georgia, it seldom snows. I know I'll not get much sympathy from those of you in more wintry climes, but as a kid from the hills of Virginia, I do miss a good blanket of white. This morning I woke to a blustery, cloudy 29 degrees F, which continued to plummet as the morning took shape. Soon, fluffy flurries were dancing in the air! With my husband back at work, my son back at university, and my daughter still all snug in her bed this teacher work day, I relished the icy quiet, and began craving porridge and tea as any Anglophile would.

My first impulse was to indulge in a nice bowl of Irish oats, but then I remembered the millet I had bought some time ago as I began dabbling in reduced gluten, and figured the quiet morning would be the perfect time for experimentation. The truth is, I've only tried millet once before, and I wasn't too crazy about it. As the chief ingredient in most birdseed blends it seemed to be, well, seedy. I decided I had last prepared it too al dente to my liking, and resolved to cook it longer, with more moisture. I toasted the grain first, then simmered it in unsweetened almond milk for half an hour. With these dates on top, it was better than the last batch of millet, but still not great. I should have had the Irish Oats instead, but I enjoyed the whole porridge-making and -eating process as the flurries whirled outside the window. I learned the millet continues to absorb whatever moisture you give it, so my one cup became so big that I had to invent another dish from what I couldn't finish. I am baking a rum-raisin pudding right now.

The flurries are over now and the sun is out. Bah humbug. Fact checking for this post, I just learned more things about millet which you should know. Millet is gluten-free, originates from Asia and is an excellent source of iron and protein, and is low in fat and cholesterol. Millet is also full of goitrogens. What are goitrogens, you ask? Goitrogens are compounds which interfere with the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, leading to hypothyroidism and goiter! Egads! What have I done? I'm turning off the pudding now, which was beginning to smell lovely. If you start to notice goiters on squirrels, birdseed may be the culprit. Just kidding.

Actually, this mention of birdseed and critters brings me full-circle to a true, albeit porridgey, story of rodents behaving as humans a la Peter Rabbit:

Years ago, when I used to step out my back door, the hills were covered in virgin forest as far as the eye could see. The back border of our yard is a natural rivulet called Snake Creek. In fact, our property is bisected diagonally by the creek at one corner, but since the land on the other side is only a handful of square feet, it's hardly worth claiming. We had built a little bridge over the creek in our early years here, and had arranged logs on the other side where we could sit quietly in the thick of nature, our house not even visible in the verdant summers. One day things changed, as they tend to. A rumbling engine signaled the end of our wilderness, which had never really been ours after all. With a crash, a towering pine took out our bridge and a couple sections of our wooden fence. The kindly equipment drivers were mortified and apologetic, and all was made good in the end.

Soon after the hills were denuded, my neighbors and I began noticing something curious. Bold little families of black rats began hanging out in our front yards! I say "bold" because they were seriously unfazed by our close proximity and our scrutiny of them. They had chosen the front yards because the dogs were in the back yards, of course. The rat families seemed to be lounging upon a manicured expanse of green, enjoying their tea. I'm as big a fan of adorable house vermin in waistcoats with good manners as the next girl, but in the real world roof rats are no fairy tale, so we proactively paid the big bucks to have the edges of our roof wrapped in galvanized steel (the rats chew the wooden sheathing to get inside). That's when we stopped feeding the birds, since we were also told rats are big fans of birdseed. Avoiding goiter must not be a top priority for them. When the construction of the new neighborhood was completed, and the heavy equipment gone, The little rat tea parties on the green ceased. Actually, since there is still quite an expanse of land between our home and the one behind, the tea parties are likely now taking place just across Snake Creek, where we used to sit on upended logs. With the rats' role as Beatrix Potter protagonists reestablished in my mind, I'm much more fond of them.

Porridgey anecdotes aside, my discovery today about millet underscores the importance of our taking charge of our health proactively as we make changes for the better. I've changed my lifestyle primarily for health reasons, so incorporating something harmful into my diet makes no sense. There are too many other alternatives. It obviously behooves each of us to thoroughly research ingredients which may be new to us. At the risk of wrecking the millet/birdseed industry, I'm urging you to do a little research yourself before you decide. As for me, I'm back on the Irish oats, which I liked better anyway!


  1. as I sit here, wrapped up against the frigid Austin air, I almost felt like you were sitting next to me, chattering away about this and that, following your flow of thoughts! so fun. Yes, we do need to be ever mindful of what we are eating. Luckily, I enjoy researching! Enjoy your wintery day!

  2. I was pretty stream-of-consciousness that day, wasn't I? Thanks for reading, India leigh!