Scotland

Monday miscellany: “Oatmeal as Human Food”

Augusta, Georgia, Chronicle and Sentinel, 10 July 1845 (Credit: Digital Library of Georgia – newspaper archives)

This 1845 article appeared in The American Agriculturist* before making its way into the newspapers. The Augusta (GA) Chronicle and Sentinel** is where it caught my eye while I was looking for articles on a different topic.

I’d forgotten that here in the US, oatmeal hasn’t always been considered an acceptable and even desirable food for humans. Back in 1845, oats were for horses and other animals, and farmers were focused on wheat and rye for human consumption. Today, many Americans appreciate its nutritious value, but it is still nowhere near to enjoying the popularity it experiences in a place like Scotland where it has been a staple for hundreds of years. The US is not among the world’s top oat producers, which include Russia, Canada, Australia, Poland, China, and Finland. Soybeans and corn are more profitable.

Perhaps, this article, which pulls on material published in Blackwood’s Magazine (Edinburgh and London), got some Americans talking about this subject especially since a challenge of sorts was laid down. Whether anyone took them up on that, I don’t know. Of course today, somebody would—you’d see Americans of Scottish descent loading up on “oatcakes, porridge, bannocks, and brose” and those of English descent getting their fill of “wheaten abominations” before fighting it out on YouTube or Instagram.

As superior and tasty as oatmeal may be, I did enjoy reading through the rather vast list of “wheaten abominations”, most of which sound delicious ;-):

Baking bread by Helen Allingham, English artist (1848-1926) – (Public domain due to expired copyright)

  • home made bread
  • baker’s bread
  • household bread
  • leaven bread
  • brown Georgies
  • fancy bread
  • raisin bread
  • baps
  • scones
  • rolls
  • muffins
  • crumpets
  • cookies
  • bricks
  • biscuits
  • bakes
  • rusks
  • Bath buns
  • Sally luns
  • tea cakes
  • saffron cakes
  • slim cakes
  • plank cakes
  • The Highland Shepherd by Rosa Bonheir, 1859 (Public domain image on Wikimedia Commons uploaded by “botautus”)

  • soda cakes
  • current cakes
  • sponge cakes
  • seed cakes
  • girdle cakes
  • singing hinnies
  • short bread
  • currant buns

**************************************************
Having lived in England a number of years, I recognized the baps, Bath buns and Sally Lunns. But some, like “brown Georgies” and “singing hinnies,” left me stumped. Turns out that singing hinnies are a kind of scone-like griddle cake that is popular in Northern England. Girdle cakes are thin scone-like griddle cakes cooked atop a stove rather than in the oven. I guess rusks are something you dip in your tea—like biscotti? No idea about plank cakes or brown Georgies. Please illuminate me, if you can.

Well, strangely enough, while I did enjoy oatmeal for breakfast this morning, I am suddenly feeling the need for a “wheaten abomination.” Best wishes to everyone for a safe and productive week. 🙂

*Volume 4, page 163.
**Published 10 July 1845.

Update 5/21/20: Meanwhile, another curious article from a test undertaken across the pond in 1852:

The Mountain Sentinel – Ebensburg, PA, 10 July 1852 (Credit: Library of Congress Digital Newspaper Archives)

Resources:
The Food of London by George Dodd (London: Longmans, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1856) – click here
“Is Oatmeal Healthy? Hear What the Experts Say” by Markham Heid, TIME online, published August 15, 2018 – click here

Categories: England, Food: Family Recipes & Favorites, Scotland, United States | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

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