Against the Grain

I’ll admit it. I have a prejudice against whole grains. They smack of self-righteousness, of nutritional snobbery. I feel like they belong in the pantries of the worst kind of vegans, of yogis. Those who are militant about their lifestyle to the point that anything less than a raw diet and a strict regimen of daily sun salutations are meant to be scorned or scoffed. Even pitied.

Anyone who knows my family can easily see where these issues came from, because all of us, at some point or another have had our dinner orders or food choices openly criticized by my step-father, Gary. He has his reasons, and I know he means well, but growing up, if you weren’t eating right (i.e. his diet only) you were actively killing yourself. Time and time again, my mom and I would bring in the groceries, and anything that wasn’t whole-wheat pasta, bananas or raw nuts, (aka GaryFood), he would judge. He had this habit of pulling his glasses down to the edge of his nose, so he was literally looking down his nose at your food. Once assessing the nutrition information, the good/bad fat ratio and the overall health benefit/detriments he would either shake his head in disgust and put it back on the counter or shrug in approval, open up said box/bag and take a handful of whatever was inside, then probably finish it all before you get a chance to try it.

It was easy to guess what he would approve and disapprove of. If it was cooked at A Votre Sante(the aggressively bland health food restaurant), sourced from Mrs. Gooch’s (the aggressively brown health food store) or recently written up in Nutrition Action as a ‘super food,’ it was good. If it was anything palatable by your average child/teenager, it was probably bad.

And whole grains were the best. And the worst. They were the marker of a good diet vs. a suicidal one. And I wanted nothing to do with them. Brown bits with names that sounded more like a German burg than a foodstuff. Bulger. Kasha. Millet. Mix them with steamed vegetables and a squirt of lemon juice and you’ve got yourself a bowl of nutritional triumph. And sadness.

I live a pretty damn healthy lifestyle now. The CSA keeps me stocked with lots of produce, my meat intake is moderate and I don’t eat processed food. Still, every time I sit down to a bowl of pasta or opt for white rice over brown, I can see Gary shaking his head at me, mumbling “empty calories,” under his breath

So in an effort to shift my diet a little bit, I’m taking on the brown beasts. I’ve stocked up on wheatberries, added quinoa to the larder and am considering taking the bulger plunge. It’s going to be one new grain a week, and I’ll update best I can. First up: wheatberries.

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