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[Zoorasia/Yokohama Zoological Gardens, Japan]
The visitors in this investigation hoped to carry with them a gospel of porridge to the hard-worked mothers of families in Lambeth. The women of Lambeth listened patiently, according to their way, agreed to all that was said, and did not begin to feed their families on porridge. Being there to watch and note rather than to teach and preach, the visitors waited to hear, when and how they could, what the objection was. It was not one reason, but many. Porridge needs long cooking; if on the gas, that means expense; if on an open fire, constant stirring and watching just when the mother is most busy getting the children up. Moreover, the fire is often not lit before breakfast. It was pointed out that porridge is a food which will keep when made. It could be cooked when the children are at school, and merely warmed up in the morning. The women agreed again, but still no porridge. It seemed, after further patient waiting on the part of the visitors, that the husbands and children could not abide porridge to use the expressive language of the district, "they 'eaved at it."
Why? Well cooked the day before, and eaten with milk and sugar, all children liked porridge. But the mothers held up their hands. Milk ! Who could give milk or sugar either, for that matter ? Of course, if you could give them milk and sugar, no wonder ! They might eat it then, even if it was a bit burnt. Porridge was an awful thing to burn in old pots if you left it a minute ; and if you set the pot flat on its bottom instead of holding it all to one side to keep the burnt place away from the flame, it would " ketch" at once. An' then, if you'd happened to cook fish or " stoo "in the pot for dinner, there was a kind of taste come out in the porridge. It was more than they could bear to see children who was 'ungry, mind you, pushin' their food away or 'eavin' at it. So it usually ended in a slice of "bread and marge“ all round, and a drink of tea, which was the breakfast they were accustomed to. One woman wound up a long and patient explanation of why she did not give her husband porridge with: "An', besides, my young man 'e say, Ef you gives me that stinkin' mess, I'll throw it at yer." Those were the reasons. It is true that to make porridge a good pot which is not burnt, and which is not used for "fish or stoo," is needed. It is also true that to eat porridge with the best results milk is needed. If neither of these necessaries can be obtained, porridge is apt to be burnt or half cooked, and is in either case very unpalatable. Children do not thrive on food they loathe, and men who are starting for a hard day's work refuse even to consider the question. What is the mother to do ? Of course, she gives them food they do like and can eat, bread and margarine or bread and jam, with a drop of hot weak tea. The women are very fond of Quaker oats when they can afford the luxury, and if milk is provided to drink with it. They can cook a little portion in a tin enamelled cup, and so escape the family saucepan.