This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
When the husk has been entirely removed from Oats, then the result goes by the name of "groats"; or, if the grain has been crushed, Emden groats are thus obtained. Oatmeal will often make the bladder irritable, and urination frequent, with a copious deposit of phosphates in the urine on cooling; acid indigestion is further provoked, with disquieting fermentation of the food. As an offset, Oatmeal tea, given in small quantities, will sometimes counteract these troubles when occurring spontaneously. American doctors prescribe a tincture made from Oats with spirit of wine, as a remarkable nervine restorative, this being particularly helpful where a deficiency of nervous energy is the result of exhaustion, and is denoted by restlessness, sleeplessness, and lack of vigour all round. A yeast poultice, made by stirring Oatmeal into the grounds of strong beer, is a capital cleansing and healing application, to languid, sloughing sores.
A useful food preparation for costive persons is "Oatmeal Parkin": "Take one pound of Oatmeal, a quarter of a pound of butter, one pound of treacle (the old-fashioned sort), a quarter of an ounce of pepper, the same of ginger, the same of crushed caraway seeds, half a teaspoonful of carbonate of soda, and a quarter of a teacupful of milk. Rub the butter into the Oatmeal; warm the treacle, and add it; also the rest of the ingredients; and lastly add the soda dissolved in the milk; then mix all thoroughly together. Grease a square tin, and into this put the mixture; bake for one and a half hours; and cut it when cold into squares".
"Porridge with Plums, and Turkey with Chine," said the Art of Cookery (1708). And in Old Mortality (by Sir Walter Scott) Mrs. Wilson pronounces, "They're gude parritch enough if ye wad but tak time to sup them: I made them mysell".
For a porridge concocted of whole Wheaten meal, "take two tablespoonfuls of this meal, smoothly mixed with one teacupful of cold water; then put a pint of water into a saucepan; when it boils stir in the mixed meal, and boil for ten minutes, stirring all the time; next place the saucepan on the hob, and cook the porridge slowly for half an hour, stirring occasionally." This will agree with those persons who cannot take Oatmeal porridge without suffering discomfort, and indigestion afterwards.
Quite recently a leading doctor in London, who is a specialist in diets, has expressed himself strongly against Oatmeal for persons of poor digestive powers. He goes so far as to say, "I consider it the curse of Scotland, and the curse of every community which acquires a liking for it." There are two classes of persons who partake of Oatmeal, - those doing hard manual labour with bodily toil; and those who work with their brains, but do only little with their muscles. The first division, such as Scotch quarrymen, find Oatmeal a good enough article of food; but to the second division, the people who live in towns, and who work with their brains, and are troubled with digestive disturbances, Oatmeal is little short of a poison. The average town diet of meat, potatoes, and bread, will supply such consumers thereof with infinitely more proteid, and phosphates, than they can obtain from Oatmeal, and with much less digestive effort. For Englishmen who attempt to eat Oatmeal, the immediate effect may be a feeling of such extreme satisfaction that no more food is felt to be wanted at the time, or for ever so long afterwards.
During an hour and a half, or two hours, the sense of entire satiety continues, but then begins the presence of discomfort in the stomach, with the desire to keep swallowing saliva; moreover, there supervenes a feeling of false hunger, with disquietude; which series of symptoms, by repetition, becomes a chronic catarrh of the organ. Another disease, too, caused commonly by Oatmeal is appendicitis, or avenoliths (Oat-stones). Again, it is a fact that the eating of Oatmeal is also responsible for much drunkenness among the working classes, especially in Scotland, since Oatmeal, as all acknowledge, produces a dry mouth. What has been termed the "Boston stomach" is occasioned by Oatmeal in America, Canada, and Scotland; this has transformed many hundreds of healthy persons into martyrs to indigestion.
The "bap" takes the place in Scotland of the English roll at breakfast. It is a big, rather flat, spongy mass of flour and water, browned all over, being appetizing, and wholesome; whilst plain Oatmeal, turned sour after being first boiled, and jellied, is called Flummery. "Take a good handful of beaten Oatmeal, put it into a quart of water, and boil it half away; then strain it through a sieve, and let it stand by for future uses. In most cases it will serve better to thicken sauce than grated bread, or flour, or even than eggs;" so says A Thousand Notable Things.
"Meal-Monday" was an institution of Scotland whiles ago, when learning was really nourished there on a little Oatmeal. Then the students before leaving their frugal homes for the Universities, provided themselves with a supply of Meal sufficient to make "halesome parritch" half through the Session. By the end of January their "Meal kists" had run low, and "a day off" was given them, on which the student was expected to journey half-way home, meeting at this point his parent, or brother, who had brought with him a second load of this simple fare. The holiday for such a purpose was fixed on a Monday, so as to allow the undergraduate the benefit of the Saturday preceding; since his journey would sometimes extend to fifty, or sixty miles. Nowadays the modern student goes home for "Meal-Monday" with a "week-end" ticket by rail having no thought of the difficult, toilsome trampings of his ancestors. Sydney Smith and his associates, on first starting the Edinburgh Review (1802), proposed as its motto Virgil's well-known line from the first AEneid - "Tenui musam meditamur avena " - "We cultivate literature on a spare diet of Oatmeal".
Carlyle, at Lord Ashburton's house, "The Grange," caught sight of Macaulay's face in unwonted repose as he was turning over the pages of a book. "I noticed," said he, "the homely Norse features that you find everywhere in the Western Isles, and I thought to myself, 'Well! anyone can see that you're an honest, good sort of fellow, made out of Oatmeal.' " Sydney Smith called Scotland "that garret of the earth, that knuckle-end of England, that land of Calvin, Oat-cakes, and Sulphur".
During the Commonwe lth, Porridge was the nickname given by the Dissenters to the Book of Common Prayer.