The Quinoa Affair
I have two dear friends, a young married couple in a nearby city. Let’s call them Biff and Shelley. They’re wonderful people, and I visit them whenever I can. The deal is, their culinary practices run, say, towards the exotic. Now I may be a leftist but when it comes to food, I’m ultra conservative. I don’t want to eat anything I can’t pronounce from somewhere I’ve never heard of. For me the perfect meal is chicken-fried steak, with country gravy and hash browns. And eggs, if you have them. I know I have better odds to win the lottery than I ever do finding mashed potatoes and gravy at their table. I don’t even buy lottery tickets. But everything they prepare is organic and healthy, and they prepare it with love. So I play nice and try some of (almost) everything.
On the night in question I had a side dish of something I thought I enjoyed, and inquired about it. “It’s quinoa,” chirped Shelley. “Do you like it?” After hearing of its nutritional properties, I set out to procure some. Quinoa (KEEN-wah) is, or are, the edible seeds of chenopodium quinoa, a species of high Andes pigweed, and a local staple going back 5000 years. It’s high in protein and essential amino acids, and hey! – – for all you pussies- – no gluten! It’s quick and easy to prepare, thus making it perfect for today’s active lifestyle.
I think I know where I went wrong. Rather than a side dish, I made a meal of it, as the expression goes. I followed Shirley’s cooking directions, and chopped and sautéed lots of vegetables, to give it character. It swelled a good deal more than I had anticipated, so I ended up with rather a large bowlful. I didn’t much care for the smell, which is a key factor in how we perceive the taste experience.
I sat there, looking down at my quinoa. It was looking back at me. Thousands of tiny little eyeballs were looking impassively upwards at the giant face about to devour them. I took a healthy forkful into my mouth and began chewing. I was chewing, and chewing, and chewing. Nothing seemed to be happening. By then all the vegetables and flavor were gone, only the quinoa remained. It was if I had a mouthful of BB-sized sponges, and no matter how much I chewed, they lost none of their structural integrity. At last I could bear no more, and just swallowed to gloppy mass. I looked back down at the bowl. One forkful had been more than enough, but I grew up in a poor family. You never threw out good food, never. This doctrine had been part of my DNA for more than fifty years. I also considered putting half of it away in the refrigerator, but I knew I’d end up throwing it out. There was nothing else but to somehow get it all down. Still, the issue was in doubt until that last forkful.
This traumatic event was well over a year ago, and I’m still in recovery. If that had been the whole story, I could put it behind me and get on with my life. However, in between that first side dish and my failed experiment, was a Christmas in which Biff & Shelley had given me a basket of goodies. Among them, and all that remains, is a 12-ounce box of quinoa. That’s probably enough to make, oh, I’d say about half a million tiny little eyeballs. I don’t know what to do with it. I thought about donating it to a food bank, but that seems a cruel thing to inflict on the poor. I could regift it I suppose, but that’s a venal sin, isn’t it? Maybe I’ll just send it back to Bolivia, its country of origin. Then again, it might make good bean bag filler. For now, though, it just sits in an otherwise empty basket, taunting me.
I’ve learned a couple valuable lessons from this misadventure. Never eat more than you want to, and never prepare more than you want to eat.