When I was a boy my mum used to force me to eat porridge. Not the most abusive thing a mother could do, but to an eight-year-old it was pretty close to torture. She’d wake me up extra early, get me dressed nice and smart, and sit me down at the dining table behind a disgusting bowl of gruel. ‘Eat it’, she’d say, before heading back down into the trenches to drag out my little brother, ‘it’ll make you a strong boy. You can have eggs tomorrow.’
So I’d eat, charmed by the prospect of fried eggs and sausage the next day, one spoon at a time, all the while transfixed by The Adventures of Tintin playing on the tele. I eventually got used to porridge, even learning to like it with a little extra sugar. Truth is my mum never really gave us a chance to dislike anything. Whether it was through blackmail or the promise of reward, we eventually gave in to what she thought was good for us. We learned to eat all that was on our plate without so much as a whimper.
‘Oats make you a strong boy’, a phrase now ideologically self-evident and indelibly etched on my mind, turns out to be true in a way. Oats are filled with important vitamins and minerals, are great sources of fibre, and contain a bunch of other nutritionally good stuff that corroborates my mum’s brainwashing. But until recently, I never really considered doing more with my porridge oats than just the occasional drip of honey or the inclusion of a few berries. To me, oats were just a quickly prepared, cheap and incredibly filling breakfast for a student who cannot afford much more.
Ola Guz’s Groats, a tiny oatmeal pop-up at Artisan Roast in Edinburgh was where I was given an oat-y education. The friends who we had gone up to visit, had been following the porridge stand around for a while, and could not say enough about how great this particular place was. Intrigued, though slightly sceptical, I tagged along to see what the fuss was about.
Groats’ set up at the coffee shop was not too far from that of a compact alchemist’s table or a witch’s apothecary. There were containers of crushed, chopped and pulverized nuts and seeds, polychromatic jars of liquids, pastes and jams, tubes of sauce, cartons of milk and a basket of bananas beside a cauldron, I mean pot, of steaming porridge. A sight to behold, one that caused people to pause, if only for a moment, before heading to the coffee counter.
As it stands, the porridge at Groats tastes just like well-cooked, creamy, mealy oatmeal that is made with hand-rolled oats and almond milk. This is no slight. Ola’s porridge is the solid and consistent foundation upon which other flavours are brought to the fore, both the exciting and adventurous as well as the familiar and established.
The citrus punch of sea buckthorn is combined with honey and coconut yoghurt, cashew butter and maple syrup cream dolloped with a sprinkling of mixed nuts over deliciously tender slices of vanilla poached pear. There are also the popular combinations of peanut butter and banana, or chocolate and banana, or apple and pecans, pear and…caramel with some…a spattering of…oh yes! hazelnut butter…mmm, it is all incredibly fantastic.
If you are in Edinburgh and love porridge, you are probably already tracking down Groats’ next pop up spot. If, on the other hand, you are on the fence, or just simply curious about all this talk of oats, head over anyway! It’s the best you can get anywhere.
Follow Groats on Social Media to find their next pop up location: