Gruel is any kind of roasted and crushed cereal moistened by being mixed with water or milk. It is usually heated, although it can also be eaten cold. Gruel is perhaps best known to an English-speaking audience as the staple food offered in workhousesEstablishment where the destitute in England and Wales received board and lodging in return for work., as exemplified by Charles Dickens’ eponymous hero in Oliver Twist, but before bread became widely available it was the staple for most of the rural population.
Gruel remains popular today, although now more commonly going by the name of porridge, or rice pudding. And it was not always considered to be solely the food of poor peasants; in the memoirs of Madame de Montpensier she recounts a tale of King Louis XIV and his brother the Duc d’Orléans throwing plates of porridge at each other one evening.