Well done to all those who identified the mystery object as a spurtle or porridge-stick. I used it this morning to stir my porridge, and what a grand job it did!
I spotted the spurtle in the shop at Gladstone's Land, the seventeenth century tenement in the Old Town, and never having owned one before, I paid my £2.50 and can now have an authentic porridge experience - that is, if I want to follow the detailed instructions in F. Marian McNeill's The Scots Kitchen, of which I'll quote a small excerpt:
"Bring the water to the boil and as soon as it reaches boiling-point add the oatmeal, letting it fall in a steady rain from the left hand and stirring it briskly the while with the right, sunwise, or the right-hand turn for luck - and convenience. A porridge-stick, called a spurtle, and in some parts a theevil, or, as in Shetland, a gruel-tree, is used for this purpose."
The book goes on to talk about porringers, which must be cold, and instructs that each spoonful of porridge be dipped into one's individual bowl of cream or milk or buttermilk, before being conveyed to the mouth. The traditional porridge bowl was made of hardwood, "preferably birch, because of its sweetness", and horn spoons were commonly used for porridge and broth and were preferred to metal ones "which are apt to become unpleasantly hot" - that's my father's horn spoon in the picture, and given the signs of wear, it was much used by him when he was a boy.
As to what to put on your porridge, well, I think I'd get a raised eyebrow from Floss McNeill if she saw my morning serving accompanied by yogurt and blackberries, blueberries or rasps. She does quote someone writing in The Scotsman in 1939 who recalled childhood Sundays when, if he or she had been good during the week, they'd be allowed their initials in treacle on their porridge, and then cream. Someone else was reported as drawing a dromedary with syrup on the surface of the porridge to encourage reluctant eaters. One more thing - and this is news to me - it is traditional, apparently, to stand whilst supping porridge, "whether this has any mystical significance or is merely an application of the proverb that 'a staunin' (standing) sack fills the fu'est' is not known.