Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Quest for Quinoa

I live in a small town in eastern North Carolina. The population is just over 11,000 closed-minded, fried foods-loving, southern twang-speaking individuals. (Okay so they aren't ALL that way. I think I've met just over a dozen or so that don't fit the stereotype). Now there are plenty of benefits to living in a small town, the quiet charm, the laid-back atmosphere, the nosy neighbors. But you might be a bit surprised to hear there are a number of drawbacks, too.

The biggest hurdle I've had to leap repeatedly deals with healthy nutrition. This town speciallizes in deep fried foods and greasy hamburger joints. The closest thing to a restaurant with healthy alternatives is Subway. I can at least get a nitrite-laden sandwich on whole wheat bread there. So basically, I eat at home a lot.

This town has several grocery stores including a Super Wal-mart. (I'll refrain from jumping up on my anti-capitalism soapbox and spare you my tirade about how big corps like evil Wal-mart destroy local economies. That's another blog subject all together.) However, actually purchasing a cart full of healthy nutritious foods is much more difficult than you might think. There is a serious lack of organic produce, absolutely zero organic meats, a very limited selection of fresh seafood, and no quinoa.

You may be wondering what the big deal is. I love quinoa (pronounced keen-wa). It's tasty, not to mention quick and easy to prepare. Much faster (and less gluey) than whole grain brown rice. AND (this is the really big reason so pay attention) quinoa stands alone as a complete protein grain. It has all the essential amino acids in a balanced pattern. So it doesn't have to be combined with complimentary foods in the way other whole grains do to create a complete protein. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences calls it "one of the best sources of protein in the vegetable kingdom." (I know this because I read it on the back of the quinoa box).

After scouring the shelves of three different grocery stores and the super Wally World, I found no quinoa. The grocers had no idea what I was talking about. Whoa is me. What will I do without my delicious nutty-flavored supergrain? Will I be doomed to a life of dull sticky brown rice and soggy oatmeal? Say it isn't so!

Today we packed up the family and drove to the nearest "big city". (A town of about 57,000) I was in search of my quinoa. Certainly the big city will have some. They even have something that claims to be a health food store. Unfortunately, it's Sunday in the Bible belt and most of "civilized society" here is completely shut down every Sunday. Sure enough, the tiny little health food store was locked down tight. Wish I had thought about that before I'd driven the 24 miles to get there.

Then I remembered that this big city has a Harris Teeter. My trip down the pasta and rice aisle seemed promising when I actually saw several varieties of couscous (another eccentric food that my small town does not keep in stock). Then I saw it, one tiny little box tucked in the corner. Quinoa. It was expensive, but I cradled it in my arms and lovingly carried it to the register. Now it is patiently waiting for me between the brown rice and flax seeds in my kitchen cabinets.

Quest complete.

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