Monday, March 9, 2009

Grains of Truth

I'm cooking millet for dinner tonight. I've never cooked millet before, except adding it bread, so we'll see how it turns out. I looked it up in my faithful "Joy of Cooking" and they said all cereal grains were mostly cooked the same, with some variation of water amounts and cooking times.

Joy of cooking is a great book. I got mine for my 18th birthday from my Mom, because I referenced hers so much. That was as close a rite of passage into adulthood as most of us will know. I treasure mine, with all it's gravy stains and loose binding.

But I digress. All of this got me thinking about grains. That humblest class of plants, which we take most for granted, yet are the backbone of our diets. Not a single group of humans has been successful without a reliable source of starch. For most of us that means grain. You can't buy them in a packet from a seed catalog. Most people don't give much thought to grain. But wheat is what enabled "western" civilization to arise in the first place. And rice is what allowed eastern civilization to arise. Because they are labor intensive to harvest with primitive technology, they are now exclusively the domain of the military industrial machine that includes modern agriculture.

That bread comes from somewhere.

I have fond memories of a breakfast porridge cooked from a variety of whole grains, with maybe a little honey, salt and milk. It is humble food, to be sure, but the feeling I get from eating whole, healthy foods that invigorate me is almost like being high. Better, really, because I know I have substantial sustenance to power me through a morning filled with chores. With whole grains there is no burst of energy followed by a sugar crash like our sterilized, modified, simple starches of "modern" civilization. Slow and steady wins the race with whole grains.

I realized today I have been neglecting grains in my thinking. I intend to stock up on a variety of grains, not just wheat and corn and rice, but barley and buckwheat and rye and oats. These plants have been our friends for a very long time. They should be just as valued as squashes and carrots in my seed stash, if not more.
And what about Quinoa and Amaranth and Millet and Flax?

Our plant friends are likely to face some trying times in the future, just as we face. The grater variety of grains we grow, the greater the liklihood of a few of them thriving through whatever challenges are to come.
I'm sorry I've neglected you, grains. I'll go shopping tomorrow.....

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