Porridge: A brief introduction to Sheffield


It’s strange how it takes some time to settle down after a trip; you’ve told the stories, discussed the weather, critiqued food and board, said yes, maybe you’d like to live there, if only public transport were not so expensive. After some time, you begin to realise which stories you will keep on telling, and which ones simply make your trip, well, a trip.

So I decided to post about the literature and pop culture of Sheffield, where I went last week – since that’s what I do – and I checked The Webs in case I’m missing something big.

Boy, am I.

Turns out both Angela Carter and Joanne Harris – author of Chocolat, excellent book, awful movie – were professors there. As if that were not enough, A. S. Byatt, perhaps my favourite author of all times, is also from Sheffield. I’d excuse myself saying that the three books I’ve read by her do not mention the city at all, but come on. Critical research failure and all that.

So no, I don’t have a post about pop culture in Sheffield – or Sheffield in pop culture – ready yet.

I turn to moodboarding, and like a Victorian governess, I start with porridge.

  • 50g porridge oats
  • 350ml milk or water, or a mixture of the two
  • Greek yogurt, thinned with a little milk and clear honey, to serve
  1. Put the oats in a saucepan, pour in the milk or water and sprinkle in a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring from time to time and watching carefully that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Or you can try this in a microwave. Mix the oats, milk or water and a pinch of salt in a large microwaveproof bowl, then microwave on High for 5 minutes, stirring halfway through. Leave to stand for 2 minutes before eating.
  2. To serve. Pour into bowls, spoon yogurt on top and drizzle with honey.(Source)

I, a 23-year-old English Studies graduate who’s lived in Scotland, hadn’t tried porridge before. Oh, I had read about porridge. It’s in the tales of the Brothers Grimm (1812-onwards), in Elizabeth Gaskell‘s North and South (1855), and I’m sure it appears in Harry Potter, because all kinds of food appear in Harry Potter. In fact, I’ve said “Please sir, I want some more” at every possible chance. But shame on me, I hadn’t tried porridge.

It was more than alright – I had it with lime drizzle, blueberries and vanilla yogurt (middle left), which probably isn’t the classic version, at the fantastic Tamper Coffee (top left), home to hip lady professors, stacks of artsy magazines, and young men who all look vaguely like bassists. It’s small, but you can have a proper breakfast while reading, so it’s my kind of place.

I do believe I prefer the idea of porridge to the reality of it. It’s beginning, and gathering strenght, and something new but familiar. Plus, there are three things I love more than anything, which are reflected in most of my favorite books:

  1. Domestic folklore
  2. Eerie revisions of workaday things
  3. Breakfast

A quick search brought me this: if you stir it widdershins, you might accidentally summon the devil – I hope they make a Black Tapes episode about that.


Rare and Racy, Sheffield.

Sheffield is best known for its music scene, which rates high up in the List of Pop Places (a work in progress). We visited one of the pubs where the Arctic Monkeys played in the early 2000s – The Grapes. I was listening to Britney Spears back then. And… I’m still listening to Britney Spears now. If it’s on Doctor Who it’s instantly canonized – I don’t make the rules – also the canon is a lie. We also visited Record Collector (middle right), an independent store that’s been around since the late 70s, and Rare and Racy, a fantastic second-hand music and bookshop (they also have prints, maps and, well, everything rare and racy) that’s been open since 1969.

Besides spending way too much time in shops (it kept raining, your honor!) we also visited Chatsworth House, aka Pemberley (bottom middle). Talking it over with my travel mates, we came to the conclusion that the English Studies sort of person can ramble infinitely about:

  1. Bookstores
  2. Mugs

Let me add:

3. Jane Austen


Pemberley grass – for realsies. Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire.

While there is very little of Lizzie Bennet’s wit and strenght and sparkle (Pride and Prejudice, 1813) in the interior of the house, which is fussy and simply too much, we had the incredibly good luck of picking a sunny day and we were able to roll around in the gardens, exclaim “Ten thousand a year!” in very high pitched voices and read while laying on the grass. Yes. I also have a “Walking in Stately Homes” post in my list, and I’d be thankful for any suggestions on that.

I did enjoy the exhibition of Cecil Beaton‘s portraits of the Bright Young Things set, of whom the Mitfords (my perennial “future-research” ideal) were a part. On the top right picture you can see his portrait of his sisters Barbara and Nancy c. 1925. I also enjoy:

  1. Wacky hijinks
  2. The first half of the 20th century
  3. Biting historical biographies

So I’m a Nancy Mitford fan. Sure, they were all way too posh, and her books wear such fancy pants – but there is something very pop about the Bright Young Things, their embracing of celebrity and the very odd, very different ways they became cultural icons, only to fade into relative obscurity. Imagine them with social network accounts!

This is a poor excuse for a post in a pop culture / history / literature blog, I know. However, much like telling and retelling a trip, writing about this has helped me consider what my following posts will be like: what I want to explore further, and what I won’t.

Also, I stumbled upon this poem. It’s about porridge. And it has some interesting cameos in it.




Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s