Eat your porridge and you will soon be hopping gates

Porridge is cheap and nutritious
Porridge is cheap and nutritious
Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

There is a British supermarket ad for porridge currently running on TV which involves a pair of pretty typical weather-beaten farmers chatting at a field gate. I think it is really good, in a chirpy cheeky sort of way.

The ad taps into one of the two main roles of field gates. While the first obviously concerns controlling livestock, that is scarcely more important than being something to lean on while chatting without having to make eye contact. As anyone who has tried it will vouch, leaning on an electric fence just isn't quite the same.

If field gates could talk, what stories they could tell. Not just the above conversations but about the farmers who have climbed them, the children who have climbed through them, the livestock and machinery who have passed by.

One of the first things a child growing up on a farm learns to do is negotiate a field gate. They work their way up the sets of bars until they day dawns when they finally climb over the top. Every occupation has its milestones and this, along with the first time to drive a tractor on your own, is one of farming's milestones.

Even in this safety-conscious age, farmers usually climb gates and nothing screams that you don't know how to climb a gate properly than mounting it at the latch end.

In the above ad, the gate is made of wood which, presumably because of the damp climate, would be rare in this country.

What we have instead are all sorts of metal gates, from the solid iron ones that have stood the test of time to some modern ones which I heard described as "only good enough to keep two fields of barley apart."

Many iron gates were traditionally located at the mid-point of the hedge between the two sides of the field, which might have made sense where there was plenty help to move stock.

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But when gateways were being widened to accommodate bigger machinery, they were often relocated towards a corner. So, now, a lot of old gates have become assimilated into the surrounding hedges.

The nostalgic and feel-good emotions about the outdoors and healthy living stirred up by the porridge ad are in stark contrast to what I felt when I came across another ad, for a probiotic drink.

This features a tall, crisp, young woman who turns up her nose when she is offered a home-made bake - it looks like a cottage pie - and instead turns her attention to the yoghurt drink. After consuming it, she proudly pats her flat tummy.

The message I took from it is that the home bake is bad for my tummy whereas the drink is good. I believe this is inaccurate and unfair.

Many people are getting fat. But cottage pie is not the problem and probiotic drinks are not the solution.

Any medical doctor will say a balanced diet and regular exercise are the foundations of health. Supplements aren't needed by a normal person with a good diet, a central pillar of which is home-made food.

For once I am not content to just vent and so have lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority. To paraphrase the philosopher and politician Edmund Burke, "all it that is necessary for the triumph of misleading advertising is that concerned parents do nothing."

Going back to the porridge ad, the way the 'aul lad acrobatically negotiates the gate moves the younger one to express his amazement.


A long-term study of 120,000 people undertaken a few years back at Harvard University showed those who consume wholegrains including oats are more likely to avoid illness.

Some good news for Irish people is that porridge has once again risen to the top of the breakfast cereals.

While we have a long association with the oaty stew, it slumped in favour during the late 1990s following the influx of more expensive processed cereals.

It made a gradual comeback from the early 2000s onwards as its health benefits became better appreciated. Since the recession hit in 2008, consumption has risen steeply, mainly because it is seen as a value for money option. Moreover, from a health point of view, porridge has 10 times the fibre and just a fraction of the salt and sugar of most other breakfast offerings.

Eating porridge may not turn you into an amazing athlete. But it's an excellent starting point for a wholesome balanced life.

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