"you've caught cold, I saw you shivering, and you must have some gruel to drive it out"

Gruel is a thin watery porridge made from oats, wheat or rice. It was a staple food for the poor, with a history going back to ancient Greece. It is commonly associated with workhouses and was made famous by Charles Dickens' classic Oliver Twist, in which Oliver memorably dares to ask for more. Although it has some nutritional value, gruel is often thin, grey and unappetising, and has been well represented in fiction as the food of mean, miserly characters. 

Oliver Twist
Public DomainOliver Twist - Credit: George Cruikshank
Gruel Recipe

3 or 4 tablespoons oatmeal

1 pint cold water

pinch of salt

Mix the oatmeal with a splash of water in a pan to make a paste. Add the rest of the water, stir well and bring to the boil. Cook on a gentle boil for about ten minutes. Add salt to taste.