Back to Basics

So a few days ago, I had a bowl of cornmeal porridge and an egg sandwich for breakfast. Oh yes. My porridge was full-bodied with hints of nutmeg, vanilla and cinnamon caressing my taste buds. My egg sandwich was ideally salted, and the toasted bread offered a welcomed variation in texture.

I know that at the mention of cornmeal porridge and egg, many of us are transported back to childhood–basic school, kindergarten, primary school, preparatory school. It was the meal before sports day, Common Entrance Exam, Sunday school and the beginning of school term.

Our mothers/grandmothers/school breakfast programmes wanted us to have something that powered our brains, revved up our little bodies and kept the worms calm until lunchtime. It was the breakfast of champions!

Then we started to age, and one look at an egg mek wi feel fat. So wi swear offa di shet pan full a porridge and di chunky bread slices smeared wid half stick a Anchor butter. Too many carbs. Too many calories.

But hold on, I say!

Shall you surrender to your age and give up childhood experiences? Perish the thought!

Awright, so some of us may not be as active like back in the day. We watching our waistline and sugar intake. Well, adjust your mindset, my fellow porridge and egg connoisseurs! Tweak that recipe!

Switch to healthful milk and bread options. Boil your egg instead of frying it. Cut back on the portions. Tek time wid di sugar. An’ learn to satisfy with half cup a porridge instead of a huge bowl plus pot-bottom scrapings. Partake of this breakfast of champions, once in a while.

Gentle folks, let us not underestimate the potency of this meal.

When you want to immerse yourself in a tiny yet powerful aspect of authentic Jamaican cuisine; when you’ve become a little too uppity during the course of your life’s journey and yearn grounding; or when you live abroad and want that tincy-wincy feeling of connection to home, this meal can do so much to centre you.

When you have this meal, it brings a dose of comfort and warmth, mushy feelings and memories of buckle-up shoes and bobby socks, pleated skirts, khaki pants and geometry sets. But when you eat it, resist the urge to cut and swallow. Don’t treat it like a two-course meal either. It’s a combo like Burger King or KFC. Eat it like you’re back in school. Savour each bite. Allow the cornucopia of textures and flavours to tap dance on your tongue and sweet up yuh mout’. Allow nostalgia to grip and transport you to former days when you could buy a patty for 50 cents at the canteen.

For those of you who have forgotten how to make cornmeal porridge or have never made it, I’m sharing my recipe with you below–sort of. It’s really a list. I’ve never measured ingredients for cornmeal porridge, so I apologize for the absence of precise quantities.

The egg-sandwich part of the combo is simple. You may scramble, fry or boil the egg and use wheat, white, fresh or lightly toasted bread. Don’t get fancy with it. No French toast, please. Yes, technically it’s egg and bread–not for this dish. If you’re not an egg lover, try cheese or sardine or just a couple skinny slices of good, ole bread an’ butta (easy wid di butta doh).

Enjoy!

Cornmeal Porridge:

Fine yellow cornmeal (maybe a cup or less if is two of you)

Cinnamon (a generous sprinkle, but not too generous)

Nutmeg (same like the cinnamon or likkle more)

Salt (maybe a teaspoon)

Water (you decide, depends on how thick or thin you want the porridge)

Vanilla Essence (about a cap full)

Milk, dairy or non-dairy (you decide how milky you want it; a little coconut milk is nice too)

Brown sugar (tek time, please; add maybe 2 tablespoons to start, taste then add another spoon if you want it sweeter.)

Method: Combine cornmeal, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl or big cup. Add room temperature water to make a slurry. Add vanilla. Heat some water in a deep pot. Add the slurry, slowly and carefully. Adjust the burner to the lowest setting (this is very, very important). Stir until mixture is uniform. Cover pot with a tight-fitting lid. The mixture will pop and the pot may even vibrate. Don’t panic. That’s normal. Just mek sure the heat low and di pot cover good-good. Simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Turn off heat. Add milk and brown sugar. Serve. Allow to cool a little before eating. (Don’t want you burn up yuh mout’. Cornmeal burn hot!)

A bowl of porridge and an egg sandwich

Take care of your beautiful selves. Catch yuh next time.

Love and peace,

Angie

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