gruel is a variation of porridge, made from finely ground oatmeal, which is mixed with water or milk, allowed to soak, and then cooked. Eventually the solids are strained out of the mixture; there is some disagreement as to whether or not this should take place before or after cooking. The result is smooth, and jellies when cold. It was prepared as suitable and nourishing food for invalids; tiresome Mr Woodhouse in Emma by Jane Austen seemed to eat little else. Salt, sugar, honey, or ‘with the medical man’s permission, a dessert-spoonful of brandy, or a table-spoonful of wine may be added’, according to Delamere and Delamere (1868).