Everywhere I look, it’s the Quinoa Network: All quinoa, all the time.
It’s not that the stuff is shockingly tasty. Even the typically enthusiastic Whole Foods website describes it with qualifiers, such as its “somewhat nutty flavor.” But quinoa is called the “Mother of All Grains” for its healthful properties and versatile nature. It works in just about any recipe and it’s hard to ruin when cooking. When The New York Times is pushing quinoa pancakes, you know the stuff is hot.
(An aside: Why does everyone feel that pancakes need to be improved upon? What other dish gives us the chance to have butter, maple syrup and bacon on the same plate without raising eyebrows? Leave the pancakes alone, people.)
Quinoa (say “keen-wah”) is thought of as a grain, although it’s a closer cousin to a tumbleweed or spinach than it is to wheat. It’s usually described as a “pseudo-grain” which is sort of like calling it a cross-dresser.
A mouthful of the stuff is seemingly healthier than a week at a spa. It’s got essential amino acids and lots of fiber. It’s nutritional pedigree is fabulous.
I wondered how this beloved-by-the-ancient-Incas food happened to take the culinary world by storm in the last year or so. A gang called the Quinoa Corporation promotes itself as the first to bring quinoa to the US. When was the last time you heard of a company taking credit for bringing a desirable new substance into this country? I mean, besides the drug cartels.
Actually, research reveals that quinoa is just like those actors who are described in People and US magazines as “overnight” successes. Quinoa’s been quietly taking bit parts in the US for more than 20 years (a trade group of producers formed in the late 1980s). It’s been waiting in the wings for a break, and finally it got the culinary equivalent of a miniseries on HBO, the network that made even President John Adams a hot character.
Quinoa’s popularity is a direct result of the influence of vegetarians and the growing number of gluten-avoiders who have risen up and demanded foods that won’t (a) offend them politically; (b) make them sick and (c) cause dinner guests to gag.
I’ve been wondering…is there anything bad about this dish? The only criticism I could find was that too much quinoa can be bad for people who need to avoid oxalates in food, which can cause or aggravate inflammation among other bad experiences. But if there is a food or drink out there (besides water) that has less controversy, I can’t name it.
So, hike on over to the store (or the internet) and buy a bag. If you don’t like it, you can always sprinkle it on the sidewalk to create traction during freezing spells. Step over the squirrels eating it and be on your way.