A Recipe for Gruel

You will need the following ingredients: oats; water.

The following equipment is essential: a big pot; a big spoon; the Holy Bible.

On a blustery winter's day, with a chill in the very marrow of your poor, poor bones, take the big pot & carry it, trudging through snow, to the rusty spigot on the other side of the village. Weeping, use what little strength you have to turn the spigot until a woeful driblet of brackish water appears. Make sure you place the big iron pot under the drip, so that water collects in it. With luck, & prayer, you should find that the pot is about three quarters full before twilight, when of course the village curfew comes into effect. The evil Grand Vizier proclaimed so in his ukase, to make sure that all pious people are behind their latched & bolted doors by nightfall. Place the big pot on your oven & set it on full. Remember that it can take electric cookers longer to heat up than gas ones, but do not despair. Once your oven's maximum heat is reached, the water will bubble away like nobody's business. To prevent steam escaping, it is a splendid idea to cover the pot. If, long ago, when you were feckless, you lost or mislaid the lid of your pot, or if indeed your pot never had a lid, for not all pots do, you can of course improvise a lid using all sorts of debris strewn higgledy-piggledy about your hovel. Just be sure you use flame-resistant debris, please. Now then, while you are waiting for the water to come to the boil, you can go & find the oats while I take a well-earned nap. Let's have a little musical interlude. ..

I am now fully rested and in tiptop condition. Let us press on without further ado, for by now your pot of water should be boiling. Please pay attention, as the next step, if fumbled, will put paid to your dearest wish, which is to make a successful pot of gruel. With your right hand, scoop some oats from the pail. Grasp the lid of the pot, if there is one, in your left hand, & lift it free of the pot. Cast the handful of oats into the seething cauldron & replace the lid. You may repeat this step once or twice, but on no account overdo the oats, as this will spoil your gruel making it too thick, & as the only remedy for this would be to add more water, you would have to return to the spigot, breaking the village curfew, and so risk being clubbed within an inch of your life by merciless curfew-cadets, & your gruel, imperfect though it may be, would then go to waste. Sin upon sin. You are now free to allow the contents of the pot to boil merrily away, although of course from time to time you ought to brandish the big spoon in your fist & give the gruel-to-be a mighty stir. In the intervals between stirrings, you must on no account remain idle. This is the perfect time to read improving passages from the Bible. Indeed, why not throw open your door, stand upright & magnificent in your weed-choked yard, & declaim the scriptures in a booming voice for the benefit of whoe'er may be within earshot in the vast & pitiless night? Two little reminders, though. However resounding your declamation, do not allow into your tone even the most minuscule taint of vanity. Remember that you are merely a vessel, & a singularly unlovely vessel at that - a tarnished urn, say, or a grubby beaker. Second, do not forget the pot, for if it is neglected you are likely to make not gruel, but an inferno. Oh, I said two reminders, but there is a third. Use your cuff to rub a modicum of grime from your hovel window. Do you see a bleak & illimitable vista of ice & snow? Are you marooned in an Arctic wasteland? If so, you may succumb to the delusions of piblokto, in which case you should refrain from following the directions of this recipe until you are relieved of your symptoms & are restored to your usual vigour. I need hardly point out the dangers of cooking when you are bonkers, although I have written an excellent little book entitled "Safe & Simple Snacks For The Bedizened & The Fraught" which is charmingly illustrated. The original pencil sketch of a cream cracker has been framed & displayed on the wall of my splendid restaurant in Haemoglobin Towers. Where were we? Ah yes. Once the gruel is fully boiled, replace the Bible on your lectern, or somewhere at any rate where it will be safe from defilement, if such a cranny exists in your hovel. Hold the spoon in your right hand, removing the pot-lid with your left. Give that gruel one last stir. Remove from heat. Allow to stand for ten minutes. Using a monstrous ladle, transfer into pre-heated tin bowls, & serve. Best eaten with a spoon. Suitable for home freezing.