Oatmeal Inspiration and International Competition
There was a time where folks could pretty much count on seeing only one brand of oatmeal: the one with the old-timey looking guy on the round, cylindrical container:
There were certainly other brands out there, back in the days where black and white TV was transitioning into color–but just as television choices were limited in most places to 3 or 4 channels, so was the supermarket aisle mostly stocked with stalwart standbys and perennial favorites.
It’s possible that many Americans who purchased Quaker oatmeal may have believed the guy on the label was a founding father or something like that. His outfit, enigma of a smile and snowy white hair lend a certain gravity to the overall presentation, no doubt.
What is for certain is that oatmeal was considered then a fairly pedestrian breakfast choice. Later on in the 80’s the Quaker folks figured that a health push might be beneficial to the growth of their Oats brand, and enlisted Wilford Brimley as a spokesperson. He positioned Quaker Oats as “the right thing to do.”
One might wonder what it was about Brimley in particular that motivated the Quaker folks, but one can only assume the target demographic was at least somewhat mature. And Brimley certainly seemed like a Grandfather figure in the ads—especially sitting next to a young Thora Birch in the video link below.
Thora is enthusiastically spooning it in, likely not realizing or caring that the Quaker Oats she’s eating is the ‘rolled oat’ variety. In fact, it might be safe to say that at the time of filming, most people didn’t know there was another other kind.
Fast forward to today, when everything, it seems, needs to be ever-more specialized and folks are obsessively searching for ‘the best’ product in any category—including oatmeal. And the biggest growth category in the oatmeal segment is that of steel-cut oats—also called pinhead oats, or if you’re in the UK, coarse oatmeal or Irish oatmeal.
The technical term for steel-cut oatmeal is groats, which means an inner oat kernel with the outer, inedible hull removed. The whole oats are then chopped by steel blades into 2 or 3 pieces. Folks who prefer the steel-cut variety describe the taste as nuttier and the texture as chewier than rolled oats. Nutritionally, they are more similar than different though some claim a lower glycemic impact from the steel-cut oats.
Irish and Scottish tradition dictated that only steel-cut oats be used to make porridge, a word in the United States used most often to refer to the stuff that Goldilocks ate, whereas in the UK meaning… well, oatmeal.
McCann’s® Irish Oatmeal is the big gun in the category. It brags about containing only Irish oats, which could beg the question about what is so inherently beneficial about the Irish soil to the oat plant. But it seems to be good marketing for the brand, along with the pleasantly retro container crafted from actual metal, as opposed to plastic.
You can’t help but notice that the McCann’s® container sports an array of seals, and that it lists awards won from a variety of competitions. These include the Great Exhibition of London in 1851 and the Great Industrial Exhibition of Dublin in 1853. Here in the states, McCann’s® took first prize at the Philadelphia Exhibition of 1876, and recognition at the Chicago Exhibition of 1893.
All those awards? For oatmeal?
You bet. And what’s more, even though the McCann’s® awards listed are all from the mid-to late 1800’s, there are still competitions and awards for oatmeal today—including the legendary “Golden Spurtle” award.
Some background first.
A spurtle, you see, is a Scottish rod-shaped wooden tool traditionally used to stir porridge. If you’re serious about your oatmeal—and the Scottish are simply mad for the stuff— you know that a spoon
doesn’t work for oatmeal stirring purists because it creates too much drag while doing the job. The rod-shaped spurtle, on the other hand, allows the porridge to be stirred without it congealing and creating lumps due to its lower surface area.
Too much fuss, you are perhaps thinking? Then blissfully ignore the Scottish custom is that a spurtle should only stir in a clockwise direction—and with only the right hand.
The Golden Spurtle is the main prize awarded at the World Porridge Making Championship which takes place each year in the Scottish Highlands village called Carrbridge. Competitors from around the world vie for the award and title of “World Porridge Making Champion.”
Rules? You bet. The traditional porridge must be made solely with pinhead (steel cut) oatmeal and not with rolled oats, adding only water and salt. Competitors must bring their own pan and spurtle—but who wouldn’t, right?
In 2016, a guy named Bob Moore won the coveted Golden Spurtle, and despite what the hat you see in the video link above might lead you to believe—Bob is not Scottish. He’s not even Irish. Bob Moore is an American. He’s the first American, in fact, to win the award—and with American steel-cut oats, as well. What’s more, these were actually American Oats supplied from the company Mr. Moore owns—Bob’s Red Mill.
After bagging the Golden Spurtle, Bob’s Red Mill now features a blue ribbon on their no-nonsense packages that proclaims “World’s Best Oatmeal.” And yes, it’s certain the people at McCann’s might disagree—and for that, there’s always next year’s World Porridge Making Championship to settle the score.
Back here at home—wondering which one you will prefer?
You’ll have to try them both to make your own porridge, and then decide which one you think tastes “just right.”
Who knew there were so many awards and options out there for something as simple as oatmeal? And what about for things that are infinitely more complex, like architecture, contractor work, and interior design?
Of course there are awards, and recognition galore available for those who create large scale works that wow. But first, aspiring award-winners need inspiration. And that is where Roos International comes in.
Roos International has been fostering Design Inspiration for more than 30 years for Architects, Contractors, Interior Designers and others in the trade. The Roos International Showroom features materials from exclusive and top industry brands and ideas for creating your own project, plus a knowledgeable and responsive staff that can help with material selection.
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