The Porridge Diaries — Organico

Organico, Epsom, 11:30am:

Chia porridge, jumbo oats, oat milk, mixed fruits, omega mix, date syrup and desiccated coconut.

This is the first lock in that the porridge diaries has experienced. The only lock in that I have had previously was in Rome, and it was more like a semi-lock-in. It was ‘just a bit of a lock-in’, but we decided that we weren’t having that good a time and so we finished our Aperol, and asked the Italian bar owner if he didn’t mind if we left.

This oat based lock in was a bit closer to the level of drama and excitement that I had hoped for, but was still not the experience that I have been promised.

‘I am slightly stressed’, I say on the phone, greeting a call from a friend abroad. She is calling from the lunch break of a new job in Zimbabwe,.

Her voice comes cooly from the other side of the world. The naturally clipped accent and the richness of it is like a shot of velvet:

‘Why?’

I tell her why. I have just had the embarrassment of my card being declined. This was not a total surprise, even though I asked for them to try it again, and again, hoping that it was bad signal and not an overdraft that was being treated like an infinity pool. I am currently between jobs, an exotic spell that I utter to cover up the reality that I now haven’t been working for 4 months. There was a script writing course that was going to take place on the coming weekend, one of the many creative projects that are gilding this time of unemployment, but it has recently been cancelled. Even though I am disappointed by this set back, the large fund for the course is needed back in my pocket. Despite the promise that it had been sent the money still wasn’t sitting back on my side, and so the account remained at an unforgiving Nil. I tried to leave the cafe with some kind of dignity, some flirty laugh that might present my lack of money as the clue to a very exciting life, but in this time a coffee had already been made for me. The owners of this cafe are both friendly and graceful. Their smiles are generous, and they were not rationed for me, even though I couldn’t pay for the coffee at this point and my porridge order, in this organic Mediterranean haven, was forgotten.

They ushered me to a corner and explained that it was ok, and I could pay at an illusive ‘later’. It was at this point that as someone who will be turning 27 in under a week, I texted my mum, who was coming to meet me anyway and explained the situation: ‘Hi, hope yoga class is going well, all is fine but I’ve got no money to pay for my order and I’m stuck in a cafe so please could you meet me here afterwards, thanks enjoy the stretch!’

I only really like drinks when they are very hot, and it was clear this coffee was not going to last me the several hours that my mum would take to get there. The cafe owners did not mind, and even though I kept my head down throughout this time I don’t think my presence was an issue. Thankfully I had been trapped in a vegan cafe, whereas perhaps I would have been met with more aggression if it was on the turf of tricksier vegetarians. So I’m there, sitting cruelly under the chalk written menu with the description of my porridge like lyrics for a song of forgotten lovers. Would I ever know this oaty touch?

The porridge was worth the wait in every way. And I did learn about myself in this 1 hour and 30 minutes when I waited for my mum to come and pick me up and pay for my breakfast. Even though I knew the funds still wouldn’t be there, I was giving myself the panicy 15 minute thrill of checking my bank balance, the anticipation bubbling each time that I typed in my password waiting to see the figures throwing shadow over the scratch of the minus sign. But there was no change, and I was no closer to the porridge. I counted the change in my jeans twice, thrusting my hands into all pockets to try and make up the difference so I could at least pay for my coffee. Their coffee, not my coffee, that was now in me.

In this time I also received a call from the recruiter who is gallantly looking for a temp job for me. He called, chipper, asking how I was. I didn’t tell him that I was waiting for my mum to come and pay for my breakfast and I couldn’t give the cafe owners any eye contact as they moved empty plates around me, I just said I was fine. Maybe it was the quiet horror of not being able to leave without a blustering apology, or the annoyance that I might run out the clock on when they stopped serving porridge, or the plight of the temp who is not strutting with carelessness but floundering wanting someone to care about them. But after 3.5 years of recruiting myself, I found this industry knowledge pouring out of me as I sat in my window seat and wondered both when I would actually receive my refund, and when my mum would arrive. I started saying that ‘I’d had a negative candidate experience’ so far about a company that were not getting back to me after the phone interview that I endured on my parents’ landline despite a promised 24 hour turn around time. Like a magician pulling tricks out of a hat, I offered that ‘I had been messed around’ by a ‘sloppy process’ and ‘would like to see a hard offer immediately’. Soft piano music played in the background and the rest of the diners enjoyed tortillas and double shot cappuccinos.

1 hour later, I spoke to my mum who talked loudly in the voice needed to use her phone on speaker in the car. I explained, bored now, what had happened, and that it was fine but please could she get here quickly. I was sitting by the door. As I hung up my call, an older man on my right asked me if I was ok. Him and his wife were enjoying a mid week breakfast out, and having overheard my story and that my card was declined and I couldn’t buy any porridge, he asked if he could buy me some? Gesturing to both the menu and the jumbo oats on sale in the delicatessen section.

My smile was wide, and I said how grateful I was but it was ok because my mum had finished with her yoga students and would be coming to pay for my coffee and my breakfast, and that yes I was looking forward to my 27th birthday. He replied that he once sailed from the UK to New Zealand with a boat that was supplied with just two sad cabbages and a large bag of grains, so he did understand the importance of this breakfast. Shortly after my mum arrived, and he compared her to Joan of Arc. We all laughed a lot of this, the comparison of my mother, the naturally blonde yoga teacher to a religious saint, who had come to pay for her daughter’s writing projects. He left to catch his wife up in the shopping centre, and my mum wrapped her arms around me.

‘If they ask if I’d like anything on it, I would like date syrup’, I whispered hotly in her ear, the words that had been driving round my head now spoken out loud.

But, the wait was worth it. Organico’s porridge is carefully constructed. The use of fruit is as plentiful as the waiters’ and waitresses’s charm, with banana, blueberries and raspberries. The jumbo oats are married to chia seeds, in a new use of this superfood that we haven’t seen before in that the are stirred into the mixture which gives a very filling consistency. And, what a way to finish time spent waiting for your mum to come and rescue you from being on the slower side of refund and a resignation: it’s reassuring, it’s soothing and it is a medley of flavours as opposed to just the, flawless yet unoriginal, brush with honey or syrup. There is a choice of alternative milks, but the major talking point of this bowl is the incredible sweetness that runs throughout the dish. This is the kind of meal that you want after you go swimming and you have that unrelenting hunger. Expertly the banana is both placed on top and swept in with the rest of the mix so the natural flavour melts through. As somewhere called Organico teases at, date syrup is an ingredient used as a final flourish. It’s textured as well. The Omega mix is a mix of toasted nuts and seeds, and they don’t use it sparingly. It gives a bite to the soft oats that just ‘chia seed pudding’, as I was more expecting, is crying out for. The desiccated coconut (Dessy-C) not only offers an aesthetically pleasing finish but compliments the tang of the fruit.

It’s beautifully presented, and is a true demonstration of how the plain canvas of porridge can be transformed into the most exotic part of your day. It was entirely worthy of enduring my short capturing by the genial mediterrainan staff, though I’m still waiting for my first invite to a more traditional lock in. I can bring my own spoon.

Final thoughts: Makes Mandy Moore look salty-this sweet organic bowl is a true example of oat’s potential for a gram worthy breakfast.