Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The History of Oatmeal (with Giveaway) By Donna Schlachter

Photo by Vie Studio from Pexels

When we think of oatmeal, we often think of Scotland. Oatmeal became a staple in Scottish cooking because oats are better suited to the soil and climate of Scotland than is wheat. As a result, the plentiful grain offered lots of opportunities to incorporate it into everyday eating, particularly of farmers and the poor. Imagine how humiliating, however, when oatmeal was referred to “food for British horses or Scottish farmers”. 

Photo by Jonas Togo from Pexels

However, while not known conclusively, most experts agree that oatmeal originated in Asia Minor, primarily because of the many subspecies of oats that grow there naturally. In fact, oats have been known since about 2000 BC by the Egyptians, and perhaps even earlier by the Chinese. While most of these cultures thought of oats as little more than weeds, and even the Greeks and Romans of 1000 BC considered them as nothing better than food for barbarians.

Still, thanks to the Romans, oats made their way to the British Isles and eventually to Scotland.

One reason oats are not as popular as wheat and barley is because they go rancid more quickly if not stored properly. While the fat content is generally the healthy kind, preserving the grain took more work and more dry conditions.
Once the grain gained a reputation for being good for livestock, it was not eaten by people, except the very poor. However, in Scotland, oats have become the national grain, and oatmeal the national dish, right up there with haggis, which itself contains oatmeal.

Although less than five percent of commercially grown oats are consumed by humans today, it still comprises a staple breakfast food in the form of oatmeal, porridge, and the like. Oats are often ground into flour for those who are gluten intolerant, and there are a variety of processes to prepare it for cooking, including steel cut, rolled, and ground.
In America, oats were brought from Scotland with immigrants. However, the grain wasn’t grown in quantity until the 19th century. A cookbook from 1903 said that oatmeal cooked for 24 hours was best. This form of hot cereal was made with groats, which was hulled and crushed grain, cut into pieces and soaked overnight. Oatmeal could also be substituted either as flour or whole in breads, cakes, and cookies.

Quaker Oats, created in 1877, sold oats in boxes and in bulk by 1885. Steel cut oats were often browned in butter, then simmered in water for twenty minutes, making them toasty and chewy at the same time.

Another use of oats was as a food for sick infants and adults in the form of gruel. Similar to watery porridge, the oats are stewed with water or milk into a thin mixture. Sometimes this thinning of the cereal was used in orphanages and poor houses as a way to fill an empty stomach without spending much money.

Throughout history, other non-culinary uses for and benefits of oatmeal have been discovered. It is a remedy for dry, itchy skin when used in bath water. Oatmeal purges the liver of cholesterol, forcing the body to find its source of lipids in the bloodstream, which can lower cholesterol levels for bad fats. Oatmeal can remove odors from enclosed areas such as closets, basements, and, in modern times, refrigerators, in much the same way baking soda will. Oatmeal will ease your pet’s itchy skin, absorb oily kitchen spills, and treat poison ivy or chicken pox itching.

However you choose to consume oatmeal, one thing is true: it’s good for you in many forms.

Question: What’s your favorite use of oats or oatmeal? Leave a comment to enter a random drawing for a print (US only) or ebook copy of “Time Will Tell”.

About Time Will Tell:

Sadie Bauer inherits her father’s watch and clock repair shop in the Mall beneath Main Street, Pueblo. However, she soon learns that Fate conspires against her operating this business and keeping her father’s memory alive.

Will O’Reilly, recently dismissed for fighting, longs to help this beautiful damsel in distress, but she’s about as prickly as a porcupine. He’d like their relationship to be more than employer-employee, but if she learns of their connection through their ex-fiances, she might not want to have anything to do with him.

Can Sadie overcome her mistrust of men in general, and of a certain suave salesman in particular? Can Will get past his former betrothed’s infidelity? And can both learn to trust the God who makes all things beautiful in His time?

About Donna:

Donna writes historical and contemporary mystery, and has been published more than 50 times in novellas, full-length novels, and non-fiction books. She is a member of several writing communities; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; blogs regularly; and judges in writing contests. She lives in Denver with her husband and two cats, finding mysteries wherever she travels. You can find her books on Amazon under both her name and that of her former pen name, Leeann Betts.



  1. Thanks for posting today! I love oatmeal, I don't eat it often though. My favorite ways to eat it are in no-bake chocolate cookies, or baked oatmeal. Most likely, though, if I eat oatmeal it would be cooked in the microwave for breakfast. bcrug at twc dot com Thanks for the giveaway!

  2. Hi Connie, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Good luck, and Happy New Year!

  3. Hello Donna I Love oatmeal and I use it in my No Bake Cookie recipe My Granddaughter loves me making them for her Have a Very Happy New Year! Sarahbaby601973(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for stopping by. I love no bake recipes, too. Good luck in the drawing!

  4. Congratulations, Sarah, for being the winner. I will contact you via email.