Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Historical Note on Instant Oatmeal

“Even a tramp like me, no matter what happens; I know there's always a brother who won't refuse me a bowl of oatmeal.”
Tuco Benedicto Ramirez

In 1852, an Irishman named James Boswell was taken prisoner during a fishing expedition in the Celtic Sea. Brought to England by way of Scotland, Boswell was put to work in the stables of a rich military general name Lord Elibank. There Boswell, using what he knew of Ireland’s barley, cultivated the same mealy paste he fed his children into a pudding like substance using the local ‘groats.’ Elibank took notice of this pudding in the winter of 1853, when his horses became reluctant to eat potatoes. A just nobleman at that time, Elibank and Boswell went to work that spring concocting a way to store this paste in order to serve it all year long. Through a series of accidents, Boswell discovered that by adding alcohol, cobalt, manganese and sea salt, the paste would dry up over night, only to be rejuvenated by water or milk. These products were later combined to form Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, where a chlorine derivative replaced alcohol, and can still be found in modern day instant oatmeal. Ever wanting to return to his family, Boswell pleaded with his Lord for release. Elibank, now ravished with poverty from the war, and bred to hate the Irish, instead killed Boswell and began selling his “On the Spot Oat Meals” to markets all across England, to no avail. Two years before his death, Elibank immigrated to the United States where he sold his recipe for dehydrating oats to John McCann, an Irishman, for twenty-three dollars. McCANN'S Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal is still sold today.


  1. An interesting if not bloody entry. I'm happy I know the origins of my breakfast of choice.