The Broadly Guide to Bourgeois Grain
The ABCs of gentrification's most contentious food group. You already know what Q is.
Image by Kat Aileen
Amaranth is tiny gluten-free seedlike grain. The individual kernels have those same spermy tails that quinoa does; it's sort of like mini-quinoa. I would describe the flavor of plain amaranth as nutty/dusty. You are most likely to encounter it milled into flour in gluten-free foods that tout their "multi-grain" or "ancient grain" -ness, but you can also make plain whole-grain amaranth into a soggy, goopy pilaf or a gritty porridge. Why would you do this? The only reason I can think of is it's that like an exfoliating scrub for your intestines.
Tabouli is so easy to make, I used to eat almost nothing else in the summertime. You just pour boiling water over bulgur wheat, let it absorb, then add olive oil, salt and crushed garlic and let it chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. When you're ready to eat, remove the garlic clove and add a ton of lemon juice and chopped parsley, some chopped mint, thinly sliced scallions, diced tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. You could also add diced cucumber or small pieces of bell pepper if you're into that. It's a perfect dish to bring to a barbecue. If you can't eat wheat you can sub another cooked grain but nothing absorbs the flavors as well as bulgur.
I have celiac disease, which is why I'm an authority here. People with this ailment can't digest gluten, a gluelike protein found in wheat, rye, and barley that gives baked goods their chewiness. When people with celiac eat wheat, they not only feel like shit, part of their intestinal lining gets damaged.
Doubtless you already know this; if you've had a stomachache in the past five years you've probably googled the symptoms and convinced yourself you have a gluten intolerance at the very least. It's become sort of a catchall explanation for everything from fatigue to acne. But unless you've had a blood test and a colonoscopy/endoscopy and gotten a real diagnosis go ahead and eat that slice of birthday cake. Please. Do it for me and other people who truly can't! Wheat is delicious and unless you're certain that eating it makes you sick, there's no health reason to avoid it.
Diets are bullshit.
Einkorn is a more "ancient" form of wheat; I guess someone found some in the pocket of a frozen caveman or something and started growing it commercially? The theory is that people who have problems with wheat can eat this and similar proto-wheat grains like kamut because whatever it is that makes so many people sensitive to wheat now is linked to how overbred it's become. I don't know, that sounds like some lifestyle-bloggy pseudoscience to me. I've never had einkorn. It is fun to say.
Isn't it weird that foods can be in style? I hope I live long enough that a truly absurd backlash to today's artisanal Michael Pollaniness emerges and the coolest people are all eating nothing but White Castle chicken rings.
How great is this word? It means "grain that's been hulled or crushed."
Hull is the outer shell or coating of a seed. It has fiber in it, so grain that's been hulled is less nutritious. The most common example: brown rice is unhulled, white rice is hulled.
This is the spongy bread you use instead of a fork to eat Ethiopian food. Because it's made from teff (see T), it's gluten-free.
Job's tears (also known as coixseed)
To be honest, I have never eaten this gluten-free grain that's popular in Asia but it sounds tasty: "cornlike" and starchy. It's used to make stews, teas and alcohol.
Another name for buckwheat groats. Buckwheat has the word "wheat" in it but is surprisingly free of wheat and not related to wheat at all! It's not even technically a "grain." (It's a "pseudocereal" but I am wading out of my depth here). There's a totally gross and overpriced version of this that's sold at most supermarkets, but what you really want is the roasted kasha sold at Polish or Russian stores. You can boil it in water with some butter and salt added, like rice, and serve that as a hearty breakfast or a side dish with meat.
I am eternally surprised that kasha hasn't caught on as a trendy food à la acai berries; it's gluten-free and has a low glycemic index, whatever that means. I keep meaning to start a business called Brooklyn Buckwheat where I just slap a label that says that on the bags from the Polish store and start raking in a small fortune.
Guess what: I don't approve of these either. First, see "D." Second, I mean, you do you, but there is a reason why most cultures' cuisines have some starch in them: Carbs are delicious, and they make you happy. Also, avoiding carbs is a great way to start spending like 90% of your income on food and still not ever feeling full.
It's the main ingredient in birdseed, which is pretty much all you need to know.
When I next get to eat a croissant. Think about it. Go get a croissant and eat it for me because I can't.
Um, you know what oats are. They are gluten-free but often processed alongside wheat so if you're really sensitive you have to seek out oats processed in gluten-free facilities.
Recently my local grocery store was going out of business and my husband brought home a box of deeply discounted Mary's Gone Crackers N'Oatmeal cookies. These are "cookies" that are designed to seem like they contain oats, but they are actually oat-free. I think this is the most bizarre food concept I have ever encountered. The cookies tasted like Frookies (remember Frookies?) but even worse. I still ate the whole box in one sitting though because I'm breastfeeding and it makes you want to eat off your own arm.
Pao de queijo
A Brazilian cheese puff made from tapioca starch, pao de queijo is a great party food that takes ten minutes to make. (Alternatively, you could also just make a batch of these and house them all.) You boil a cup of milk, half a cup of butter, and a teaspoon of salt, then add two cups of tapioca starch, two eggs, and a cup and a half of shredded parmesan, then pour the liquidy batter into mini muffin pans and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, till they puff up and turn brown. They are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, like a popover or a gougère.
I hate it. I went to a holistic nutritionist once who said that most of her clients don't digest it well and I've used that as an excuse to avoid it ever since. It tastes like nothing at best and like bitter soapy nothing at worst. Also the people who grow it now can't afford it, which you also likely already know if you have ever listened to NPR. Just eat rice.
I fucking love rice. I eat it almost every day. If you ever get bored of regular long-grain jasmine rice, there are a ton of other kinds. If you eat a lot of rice, you should invest in a rice cooker. Mine is Japanese and plays "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" when you turn it on and another song when the rice is done, a sort of rice victory anthem. When I have leftover rice I fry it with garlic, ginger and scallions, crack a couple of eggs into it, and eat it for lunch. If that sounds good but you lack leftover rice, just get some from the cheap Chinese takeout place for $1 and go to town.
Socca is a chickpea-flour crepe of French origin. We're stretching "grain" a little bit by including a legume, but it can be made into a flour, so whatever. Socca is delicious. Other uses of chickpea flour are wack. You really do not want it in your gluten-free flour blend; it will make your cupcakes taste like falafel.
A tiny seed that was one of the first food grains to be domesticated (in Ethiopia).
One inevitably feels unchill when telling a server in a restaurant that one can't eat wheat. It always makes me feel terrible and self-conscious like I am making everyone's lives harder for no good reason, except the one time I got taken out to dinner at NoMad and the server was incredibly helpful about telling me exactly what to order and I wanted to marry him, though he's probably gay.
Vegan gluten-free baked goods
Try to avoid these. Take butter and eggs out of the picture in addition to wheat flour,and you are going to have some nasty collapsing gritty greasy cookies, etc. Baked goods should not taste or be healthy! The one exception is the stuff from Clementine, which somehow manages to taste like box cake mix in the best way.
This is a nutty delicious grain that is neither wild nor really rice. It is an aquatic grass. What a fun treat you are going to be at your next cocktail party.
Xanthan gum is found in a lot of commercially prepared gluten-free baked goods and breads. It is a polysaccharide secreted by a bacteria that is also used in the oil drilling industry to thicken mud. It's fine to eat and I have a little plastic tub of it in my pantry that I use in baking when I absolutely have to but you have to admit it sounds completely gross and not like something you should put in your body.
These are not gluten-free.
A cookie that you give to babies when they're teething, it starts out hard and then gets liquefied by their drool.