While touring the United Kingdom a few years ago, I was treated to a traditional British breakfast each morning. No matter where I stayed in Britain, each hotel and bed and breakfast served generous helpings of sausage, eggs, chunky potatoes, and tomatoes. Not being a big breakfast eater, I would eat a few bites of everything and then simply explain that I was full. After a few days of this, I began to long for something simpler and definitely more healthy.
It wasn’t until I reached Ireland where I really started to enjoy the breakfasts. Modern Irish breakfasts often include the same hot, fried foods as Britain. But more traditional Irish breakfasts may also include a piping hot bowl of oatmeal or porridge. I had tasted oatmeal before, prior to my overseas travels, but I wouldn’t have considered myself an oatmeal lover. Yet, after a week of greasy English breakfasts, my stomach was ready for a change in breakfast selections.
I remember ordering my first bowl of oatmeal somewhere in County Cork – it came to me in a small but deep wooden bowl with handles, accompanied by a dark wooden spoon. My Irish companions explained that good Irish oatmeal was cooked slowly over an open flame, although many times it would be left to soak overnight in milk, cream, or just plain water. The best way to enjoy it, as they explained, is with a little milk or cream, hearty brown sugar, and the berry of my choosing. And so I followed tradition, spooning in the sugar and drizzling the cream, eventually making a thick, but creamy mixture. The only thing left now was to taste my new creation.
Irish oatmeal is like none other I’ve tasted and definitely the best I’ve ever tasted. The flavor is quite different than standard Quaker Oats or other American oats. Irish oatmeal has a deeper, richer, an rather nutty flavor compared to the American version. Granted, any oatmeal can stick to your ribs, but the taste of Irish oatmeal seems to last on your lips and the sweet smell can linger in the air for hours. It is the ultimate Irish comfort food, leaving you feeling warm and cozy, not to mention rather nostalgic, even if you’ve never had oatmeal or been to Ireland.
Enjoying authentic Irish oatmeal in Ireland definitely has its benefits. However, after being back in the States for a while now, I’ve learned to adapt. When I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for the Ireland’s green, rolling hills, and cool damp air – not to mention the wonderful Irish accents – I make a bowl of McCann’s Irish steel-cut oatmeal (imported from Ireland). Nothing will replace that first bowl of Irish oatmeal, but, as far as breakfast is concerned, it is the closest thing to Irish heaven I can find.