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Dear Mr Breakfast,
What is gruel and did orphans really eat it?
- Young Joe

AnswerGood question Young Joe. Gruel is basically a thin porridge or soup. The main forms of gruel include rice gruel, flour gruel and millet gruel. Other base ingredients you can boil include breadcrumbs or ground crackers. You can best understand it by making it for yourself.

Here's a simple recipe for flour gruel:

2 teaspoons of flour
1 teaspoon of salt

Boil one cup water. Separately, drip water on flour and salt until it makes a paste. Add the paste to the boiling water. Stir to a semi-fluid consistency. Strain to eliminate film. Serve warm.

Did orphans really eat it? You bet they did.

...they contracted with the water-works to lay on an unlimited supply of water, and with a corn factory to supply periodically small amounts of oatmeal, and issued three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and half a roll on Sundays"

Charles Dickins
Oliver Twist

Gruel was served to orphans as an economic necessity. You certainly couldn't feed hundreds of children steak and eggs on city funds. Unfortunatly, Dickens and his ilk often used gruel as a metephor for cruelty. The thin porridge has had a bad reputation ever since.

Gruel can actually be quite tasty. As far back as Medieval times, they were making sweet variations. A dish called Gruya (or Gruyau) was basically gruel -- barley boiled in almond milk.

In Korea today, gruel is often considered a delicacy. Take for instance Jat-juk, or Pine Nut Gruel -- finely ground rice swimming with pine nuts to make a nutrious (protein, iron and vitamin B) and delicious soup.

I appreciate your question Young Joe. I hope that you and all my breakfast friends will give gruel a chance.

This article was written by Mr Breakfast (aka Eddy Chavey).

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