To the layperson, oatmeal may not seem like a particularly glamorous breakfast food. But every year, porridge pundits from across the globe flock to the small town of Carrbridge, Scotland, to compete in the Golden Spurtle, the annual worldwide porridge-making championship. The heat is low, but the stakes are high—the winner will walk away not only with the newfound confidence of an oat extraordinaire, but also with a highly-coveted golden spurtle in hand.
What’s a spurtle, you ask? Though it might sound more like a newly-discovered amphibian than a kitchen gadget, the spurtle is a traditional wooden porridge-stirring stick used to keep the mixture from clumping. Stirring porridge may seem pretty straightforward, but there are some rules when it comes to spurtle handling. For example, one oft-repeated superstition is that a cook must stir clockwise with their right hand to avoid summoning the devil.
At the Golden Spurtle, prospective porridge champions can enter one of two competitions. The first is the traditional competition, where only water, salt, and oats are allowed (no quick nor rolled oats), and the winner is determined by taste, texture, and color. In the specialty competition, which is more flexible with regard to ingredients used, porridge performance is judged on innovation and taste. Winners of the traditional competition often credit the water that they use, or the way in which their oats have been milled. Specialty contestants get a bit more creative, whipping up unexpected creations ranging from a marzipan oatmeal with Glenfiddich whisky ice cream to caramelized porridge with cloudberry liqueur.
If you don’t have the stirring stamina required to be a competitor, fret not. Spurtle-free spectators are more than welcome.