When kids (and not-so-kids) are feeling a bit under the weather, a comforting dish that's quickly made and often meets approval is something called "lammetjespap", lamb's porridge. Depending on where you were raised, that might either mean warm milk thickened with flour and sweetened with sugar (northern provinces). It's similar to bierpap but without the beer. Or it could be a couple of beschuiten (Dutch rusks) in warm milk with a generous serving of sugar, as they do in the southern provinces.
The beschuiten version was the one my grandma Pauline would make for me. She would break two beschuiten in a deep soup plate, sprinkle some sugar on top and pour warm milk from the stove. The dried rusks would soak up the milk, soften and turn into small, mushy pieces. I often wondered why it was called "lamb's porridge". The lumps of soaked rusk could vaguely resemble the woolly back of little lambs, I guess. Very vaguely, I realize, and surely the onset of a fever helps with the visualisation there. Maybe the name was given to the porridge because it was warm, comforting and just overall...well, woolly and cozy and warm. Just like a little lamb.
But the porridge is not just a contemporary dish. Lammetjespap was also standard on the menu for recovering TB-patients, many which were young children, during the early years of the 19th century. Prominent Frisians financed the Friesch Volkssanatorium voor Onvermogende Beginnende Borstlijders (Frisian Popular Recovery Center for Destitute Early Chest Sufferers) in an effort to halt the spreading of the contagious disease. Medication was, at that time, not yet available and because of its popular nature and low daily fee, the recovery center provided beds for the poor, but little else. The consumption patients had to recover with the help of light, air, a lot of rest and nutritious food, in this case lammetjespap. The flour porridge (northern versions of lammetjespap consist of little more than milk, flour and sugar) was comforting, filling and delivered some nutritional value, albeit little, to the suffering ill.
Today is lammetjespap-day for me, the southern version. I'm cuddling up with a bowl, a blankie and a book. See you next week!