Remember when our parents sent us off to school after eating a rather large bowl of hot oatmeal?
Or if you are(or were) a cook, you always had that small double boiler filled with stringy, gloppy oatmeal we plopped in a bowl for a customer?
The origins of oatmeal is referred to as beginning with a research scientist at the British Adhesives and Sealants Association mistakenly finding oatmeal was great as an adhesive during a botched experiment trying to find the best industrial glue.
Although the British Adhesives and Sealants Association is real, the story is not. BUT, I must add that in Cambridge, England, contestants vie for the Golden Spurtle every year. The spurtle is a 15th century wooden club for stirring the beloved English oatmeal, or porridge. This is the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship and is, by far, the most anitcipated food even in all of England.
Although looking back, I find the flavor of plain oatmeal that took Mom 15-20 minutes(the true Scottish method) to make in the morning boring and almost too bland to eat, it filled our bellies. The only sweetener was sugar and then we added some milk to it so that it wouldn't ball up on us. I enjoyed eating it however, but my kids would NEVER touch it now, at least not the way we had it growing up.
The main reason(besides the inexpensive cost)is that oatmeal stays with you for hours and hours after ingesting, especially Steel-Cut oats(see below). THAT is why our parents so gladly fed us this "porridge" before school and I will gladly say thank you for caring.
But now that we are older and cooking it ourselves, there are many of us who are still vague on the differences between the varieties. Here is a quick rundown.
Rolled oats are simply oat groats that have had their inedible husks(chaff) removed, then they are steamed and rolled into flakes. They, then, are toasted for shelf stabilzation. Oat groats, also called berries, contain the fiber-laden bran, endosperm and the germ itself. I remember well my Dad eating Wheat Germ often, which was the germ of the wheat plant. There are also different types of groats, such as wheat and rye, but seen much less often, regrettably.
Rolled oats can be easily turned into oat flour by putting some in a food processor or blender and pulsing until a powder is formed. If you find yourself without breading for seafood or anything that requires flour as a coating, try giving some oats a whirl in your processor or blender as a substitute. You will be glad you did.
There are four different types of rolled oats.
The thinnest of them is the Instant Oatmeal you see on grocery shelves.
Next is the Quick Cooking Oats, a tad thicker. Used in many recipes calling for oats.
Then we have the Regular(Old-Fashioned) Rolled Oats and lastly...
Extra Thick Rolled Oats. You remember, the kind our parents made us eat before school!?!?
Then what is the oatmeal found in baby food jars? That is oatmeal that is pulverized so that it is a powder. Mixed with boiling water and then cooled, it is the base of all baby food. Sound too simple NOT to do at home, rather than paying .50 a jar, huh?
Generations ago. our fore-families ate porridge, which was much like baby food oatmeal powder, just not as finely pulverized.
Then there are steel-cut oats(aka Irish and Pinhead), which is the same thing as sliced oat groats, but chopped fine before steaming. Steel Cut are not recommended for baking because they do not soften much at all, resulting in quite a chewy texture. BUT, I must confess, I enjoy the texture of Steel-Cut for my morning breakfast because it simply stays with you for hours and hours. And out of all the different types of oats, these are best for controlling blood sugar levels as well, taking the longest to break down in your body, thereby controlling sugar "spikes".
Why has oatmeal been a family favorite for treating itching, bug bites and other minor skin ailments?
Answer: Because it is the ONLY food item in the world that contains avenanthramides. Averanthramides are alkaloids that are proven to be an anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant and is a great anti-oxidant compound.
And lastly. With all the talk about gluten now-a-days, I am often asked if oatmeal is gluten free. You bet it is. But because it is often processed in the same area as gluten rich grains and even grown in the same fields as wheat, it is best to check the package just to be on the safe side, but all in all, oats are gluten free.