Gruel. It doesn’t sound very pleasant. I never really knew what it was, but it’s what I imagined I was eating while staring down a hot bowl of soupy oatmeal on a cold winter day. Guess what? I was pretty much right.
Gruel was a staple item in many a Medieval home, mostly the homes of peasants, and could be made with millet, hemp or barley, or more recently, rye, wheat, rice…or oats! The grains would be ground in a mortar, then simmered in water or milk. Believe it or not, people didn’t mind eating it. After all, Oliver Twist did ask if he could have some more…how bad could it be?
Since the Dormition Fast started today, I decided to try something different. I decided to feed myself gruel Monday through Friday during the fast. Lenten meals should be simple and cheap, nothing fancy. I don’t want to eat bad tasting food, but since I already abstain from The Big Three (meat, eggs & dairy) every day, I want to make a change in my diet that makes me feel like I’m actually keeping the fast.
So anyway, tonight I made my first Lenten gruel.
I measured one cup of water and got it heating on the stove top on high in a small pan. The green & black thing is my pair of onion goggles, the foam is supposed to keep the onion from burning your eyes. I like wearing them even when I’m not cutting onions.
Here we have one heaping cup of roughly chopped onion. I used yellow, but white would be fine.
By the time you finish chopping the onion, your water will probably be boiling. It slowed down a little when I added the cold onion, but that didn’t hurt anything.
Back to boiling in no time. Let the onions boil until they are soft and clear.
I have this little coffee mill that I only ever use to grind oatmeal. I put in about 1/4 cup oats, but I didn’t use it all.
Once the onions were clear, I started adding the oat flour 1 spoonful at a time. I also decided to add another 1/4 cup water because I was really hungry. I kind of wanted to just dump in all the oatmeal, but if it gets too thick it’ll be more like porridge, and that’s for another time. Gruel is supposed to be somewhat loose and soupy.
It made a decent size bowl, just enough to fill me up. For now.
Without getting fancier than I’d like to, there’s really no way to make it pretty; however, there is a way to make it tasty – add a pinch of salt! And then, if you’re like me, add another pinch or two.
That’s it: Water, onions, oat flour, salt. I actually really liked it, and I’m looking forward to trying a variation tomorrow night.