You have to understand: we’re a one grocery store town. There were two when I first moved here. One was owned by a man who smiled a lot but whose eyes revealed without question that he hated his customers, almost as much as he hated the rival store. He’s not around anymore, driven out by competition and systematic spurning.
Now we have just one store, but it’s a big one, well-stocked and staffed with friendly people, including bag boys who will cart your purchases to your car. You can tip them if you like. You really should, you know; service like this should be rewarded before it disappears forever. I can also attest that at our one grocery store, I’ve never been given the stink-eye or a “you are dead to me” smile – at least not by the staff.
I love my one grocery store. I even forgive them for individually wrapping the peppers in cellophane and slapping three zucchinis on a Styrofoam tray when what I really want is only one zucchini and zero landfill, thank you very much. I forgive them because the owners are community-minded people and they sell copies of my book up front with the newspapers. Right there to the left of the cash. No, over more. Now up. Top shelf. There you go. Why, yes, I’d be happy to autograph that!
And while I may still be recovering from the shock of their recently reorganized shelves, the results of which sends me wandering around the store seven times trying to find everything on my list instead of the usual three, I know I’ll be okay. Eventually I’ll find what I’m looking for, because I know what my one grocery store stocks and what I’ll have to drive to Sherbrooke or Magog to get. And that’s okay. Me and my grocery, we have an understanding.
So when I ran out of bulgur this week – as who among us hasn’t? – I zipped over to the one grocery store for a refill. With the reorganization, it took a while to find the bulgur. It took a long while. It wasn’t with the flours. It wasn’t with the nuts. It wasn’t with the hippie foods. It still wasn’t with the flours. I walked around the aisles seven times. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t ask one of the employees whether they had any bulgur, but that’s not something you can just blurt out. You need to lead up to it. Eventually, I was forced to conclude that there was no bulgur in the store. What I did find instead was quinoa.
Lots and lots of quinoa. Where the bulgur should have been, there was quinoa.
I should have known.
Quinoa has become the trendiest of the superfoods. Quinoa cereal, quinoa crackers, quinoa quiche, quinoa quahogs, quinoa is everywhere. As a survivor of the Great Oat Bran Frenzy of 1990, I’ve learned to take these fads with a grain of Himalayan pink crystal salt. If berries and fish oils were the superfoods they claim to be, for example, bears would be running our municipal councils, and I imagine that would play hell with garbage collection, so count your blessings.
I’ve seen enough fads to know that quinoa will have its day and then fade, not unlike that açai berry stain on my sofa.
What I resent is having quinoa foisted on me against my will. I don’t blame this on my one grocery store with its bag boys and local books (at reasonable prices). I blame this on the quinoa mafia.
Don’t look at me like that. The food mafia is real. How else do you explain how that cloyingly thick Greek yogurt pushed out delicious but barely-holding-it-together Balkan style yogurt? Greek yogurt is pudding, I tell you!
And it’s the worst kind of mafia: a hipster mafia – chia-tea-drinking, kale-chip-munching hipsters who tell you “It’s pronounced ‘kee-nwa,’ not ‘kin-no-ah,’ you burger-gobbling, one-grocery-store-shopping rube!” And then they’ll tell you they were into hyphenation before hyphenating was cool.
“Quinoa’s a whole protein, it’s so versatile,” people will say, to which I reply, “It looks like pond eggs, tastes like nothing, and if I wanted versatile, I’d buy couscous. But I don’t want couscous. I want bulgar.”
But there was no bulgar, so I bought quinoa to make my tabbouleh. I adapted, much as I adapted when they stocked the black tea and herbal teas in two different aisles. I went home and found a recipe for quinoa tabbouleh that promised to be as good as bulgar tabbouleh.
I’ve served tabbouleh. I know tabbouleh. Tabbouleh is a friend of mine. Quinoa, you’re no tabbouleh.