The quinoa mafia strikes again

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.

Looks like something I should clean up off the floor.

Looks like something I should clean up off the floor.

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.


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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55 Responses to The quinoa mafia strikes again

  1. Ha! Really great post Ross! “Quinoa, you’re no tabbouleh.” Brilliant. I would like to point out though that I ate quinoa before anybody knew how to pronounce it. I’m ahead of the trends like that you know. I don’t eat it often, but I like it occasionally.

  2. Nic says:

    The real question here is, why did the Great Oat Bran Frenzy of 1990 ever have to end? I feel like I would have thrived in that movement! (No pun intended?)

  3. I am perpetually out of bulgur. I’m wondering, though: Is chia-tea made out of the coats of chia pets? The horror….the horror.

  4. El Guapo says:

    Lets be clear on this. You Quinoa hounds get everything east and north of the produce aisle.
    Me and my…associates of the Fraternal Order of the Himalayan Pink Salt get everything west of frozen foods.

    And if we see you and your grainy buddies anywhere near the deli department, well, let’s just say that “well seasoned” doesn’t begin to describe what will happen.

  5. I had to Google bulgur. It says that it’s a “cereal food made from the groats of several different wheat species, most often from durum wheat”. You should just get Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Problem solved.

  6. Amanda Fox says:

    OMG Greek yoghurt is like pudding. There’s one kind with coconut. It’s better than ice cream. And yeah, quinoa is taking over the world. Bulgar? What’s bulgar? 😉

  7. Lily says:

    You are a brave man for trying quinoa. I mean, I’ve tried it, and it’s okay. I just…don’t ever crave it or want it. It’s just so…..quinoa. I’d rather have fatty carbs. Or sugary carbs. Or just plain old-fashioned carbs.

  8. Katie says:

    I wish the flavor was as exotic as the name. I was imagining it would taste like barley for some reason (sorely disappointed).

  9. Ned's Blog says:

    It’s been my experience that if you can argue the proper pronunciation, it probably wasn’t meant to be eaten to begin with. Tofu is the only exception; no one argues about how terrible it is.

  10. peachyteachy says:

    This is wholesome, whole grain humor. As you know, I have been a quinoa activist since last April. It’s a pretty demanding gig.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I’ve read that as well. I guess the difference is, WE DON’T NEED QUINOA, and they do. It’s just trendy at the moment but at what cost? Once again, white North Americans ruining everything!
      Oh, and thanks for the nutty compliment.

  11. pinklightsabre says:

    God, you sound like a Seattlite. Not in a bad way, I mean. I’m sorry, hope I didn’t offend…(that’s also Seattle/northwest, except I’m not, I’m passive aggressive). But this is your post, not mine. I had a similar problem finding achiote paste one time and it about spoiled my marriage.

  12. ksbeth says:

    was it in the ‘artisanal’ area?

  13. You’re so bulgur. Quinoa is too high-brow for you. And I mean that in the kindest of ways.

  14. I was thinking of doing a post on my favorite grocery store too! You beat me to it…. there’s enough room in this world for MULTIPLE grains – those bastards.

  15. javaj240 says:

    I refuse to be yet another lemming in the quinoa parade. I would, however,like to meet the marketing genius behind the Greek yogurt frenzy. It’s disgusting, sure, but if it’s good enough for John Stamos, well, you know the rest! This genius, or team of geniuses — I like to think that there was more than one person behind force-feeding Greek yogurt to the unsuspecting public — are, no doubt, working on their next conspiracy — it probably has something to do with plantains.

  16. Outlier Babe says:

    First, second: First, I want to say that this is second post of yours I’ve read, and–as you clearly already know since you’re a Published Author of your own posts gathered together in a book for sale in a Real Store (on a specifically-located clearly-identified shelf so thoroughly marked out by you in another post)–you are funny. Glad I stopped by.

    Third: I, too, think quinoa is tasteless and textureless. But flipped suddenly to the celiac/”gluten-intolerant” side of life by my friggin’ autoimmunities, and being corn-allergic, quinoa and rice are now my boring bosom buds, with the occasional kiss from lovely, lovely, oh-thank you-God buckwheat. To modify peachyteachy’s info on folks in quinoa-growing areas being priced out by pretrend-y quinoa lovers: Some of us of modest means in more privileged countries also cannot easily afford the trendy prices.

    And, sir, Greek yogurt is the only type thus far which has not made my new suddenly-feebler digestive self ill. So, being generous-spirited (not my nature at all, but YOU don’t know that [Didn’t–oops.]) perhaps this applies to many others, as well.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Thanks and thanks (1&2). And 3, I become disgruntled when confronted with change, especially when the change seems faddish. However, I grudge no one any food that makes them happy or, in your case, not unhappy. Good health to you, and here’s hoping you can handle condiments.

  17. buntymcc says:

    I read this post of yours this morning and saw this link this evening: It was posted on Facebook by USC Canada’s Seeds of Survival. The link only gives you a preview. Oh, and you’re right, Tabbouleh with Quinoa would be awful. Find yourself a good Lebanese grocer, they’re everywhere aren’t they?

    • rossmurray1 says:

      After I wrote this, I purchased a bulk bag. Granted, I haven’t made tabbouleh since…

      Thanks for the article link. I’ve also heard that the popularity of quinoa is depleting stocks and/or making it too expensive for people who have used it as a staple for hundreds of years.

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