The day started at 5am with a food styling job for Dr. Joel, a naturopath who was promoting quinoa on Breakfast Television. My job was to make her display gorgeous, filling it with a cornucopia of quinoa cookies, glasses of chocolate banana quinoa smoothies, quinoa based trail mix, glass jars of red, black and baby quinoa and big bunches of swish chard and beets. (Who knew quinoa was part of the swiss chard/beet family?) Then it was on to regular stuff: breakfast dishes with a toddler. Dropping off at school. Picking up at school. Dinner. And finally, a hot, sleepy hour in the bleachers at the pool while my oldests swam laps. But all wasn’t lost. I had Dr. Joel’s trail mix with me. Cocoa nibs. Goji berries. Large flake coconut. Pumpkin seeds. Pecans. Almonds. Hemp seeds. All tossed together with chopped bits of Dr. Joel’s chocolate quinoa crackers. Each handful was fuelling my body with exceptional goodness.
Then the gastroenterologist sitting beside me leaned over and said, “You know all those seeds get stuck in your colon?”
The next morning I read an article in the Guardian about quinoa. This ancient grain has become so popular that Bolivians and Peruvians can no longer afford their native staple.The article was followed by an editorial in the Saturday Globe by Doug Saunders. “There is nothing quite like food to make us lose all sense of perspective and reason,” Saunders writes. He goes on to argue the merits of quinoa for farmers from a economical perspective, then concludes by questioning the importance of authenticity: are we meant to eat certain foods just because our ancestors did?
“I have relatives on the Nova Scotian side of my family who can remember when lobster was strictly for the dirt-poor – in the eyes of better-off Maritimers, it was akin to eating insects,” writes Saunders. “Then the postwar explosion of surf-n-turf dining priced this high-protein food out of their reach. They ate lasagna, pork chops, and macaroni and cheese instead, because the lobster boom had made them less poor. Does anyone think this made them worse off, or less authentically Nova Scotian?”
So there I was – a kitchen full of quinoa, the politics of food on my mind and bits of seeds stuck in my colon.
But then I remembered what has always been my food philosophy: does it taste good? If pure nourishment follows, wonderful. My mouthful, however, is not intended to be a selfish, harmful endeavour. But if we break down all that we eat, regardless of where it comes from, we will find problems. And eating with a furrowed brow only leads to indigestion.
So who cares if there are a few seeds in the colon. I’m sure they lower cholesterol en route. Enjoy each bite. Hope for benefits. Meanwhile I’m going to eat some more of Dr. Joel’s trail mix, because after all, it tastes good.