Food for Thought: My mother’s porridge heals

My mother’s cooking will always taste best.

A green bowl of porridge being served by hands with red nail polish
ILLUSTRATION: Raissa Sourabh / The Peak

By: Nercya Kalino, Staff Writer

Whether rice, oat, or flour based, porridge is the dish that carries the comfort of childhood in many cultures. It’s a basic food in my culture that most Malawians grow up eating. Now that I’m in my mid-twenties, a lot of my food cravings are childhood meals, especially my mother’s porridge recipe. The tenderness and care that I associated with porridge since a young age makes eating it now remind me of my mother’s love. 

My mother mostly made flour porridge. Sometimes she would add groundnut powder into the mix with dry milk. Other times she would use rice and add liquid milk with cocoa, honey, and peanut butter. No matter the ingredients, her porridge was always curative to my soul. Whenever I was sick from body aches and headaches, she would sit next to me and slowly feed me, with patience and love. If I was full, she would urge me for one last spoon and before I knew it, I had finished eating the whole bowl. 

As I grew into my teenage years, I moved away from home for boarding highschool. This is when I started to loathe breakfast, because the porridge served in school was bland and cooked to feed, not to heal. I hated the idea of having to wait in line for a scoop of a piping-hot mix of flour and water because in my eyes, there was nothing about it that was appealing. I didn’t like that I had to bring my own condiments to improve the taste of the porridge. Everything about this interaction made me miss home. During that time away from home, I tried my best to not get sick, because if I ever got sick, my mother was too far away.

Porridge to me is my mother’s pure love for me. She would always surprise me with my favourite meals and always seemed to know when a bowl of her porridge would brighten my day. 

Now that I’m in Canada, the weather here is different, so porridge is best cooked in the fall. The cold and snow outside will leave me feeling homesick, but when I replicate what my mother used to make for me, I feel the warmth of her heart. Sometimes, as I eat, I cry, but after the last spoonful, I feel closer to her caring and protective nature.