Head masks will be required before they play outdoors

Last of the Incans – just 12, but a quinoa eater

Greenwich girl wins Michelle Obama’s “healthy food” contest for school children and as the result, has to dine at the White House. I applaud the kid’s initiative, but why do I have a sneaking suspicion that the winners of this contest were selected on the basis of political correctness? I don’t know the identity of the kiddie-chefs from the other 56 states but the GT story tells us the salient facts about Greenwich’s.

1. The girl is Hispanic

2. Her recipe adds “quinoa” to an otherwise – ordinary sandwich. I’d never heard of Quinoa either, so I looked it up. Turns out, it was a main crop of the Incas, who went mostly  extinct a couple of hundred years ago, probably voluntarily and probably because, in their poverty, they were forced to subsist on this stuff.

Quinoa in its natural state has a coating of bitter-tasting saponins, making it unpalatable. Most quinoa sold commercially in North America has been processed to remove this coating. This bitterness has beneficial effects during cultivation, as the plant is unpopular with birds and thus requires minimal protection. There have been attempts to lower the saponin content of quinoa through selective breeding to produce sweeter, more palatable varieties that have proven difficult due to cross pollination contamination.

The toxicity category rating of quinoa saponins are classified as a mild eye and respiratory irritant and a low gastrointestinal irritant.The saponin is a toxic glycoside, a main contributor to its hemolytic effects when combined directly with blood cells. In South America, Quinoa saponin has many uses outside of consumption, which includes detergent for clothing and washing, and as an antiseptic for skin injuries. High levels of oxalic acidin the leaves and stems are found in all species of the Chenopodium genus, but are also present in the related plant families of Polygonaceae and Amaranthaceae. The risks associated with quinoa are minimal, provided it is properly prepared and leaves are not eaten to excess.

So birds won’t eat the stuff and it’s suitable for use as a detergent. Sounds exactly like every other “all-natural” product sold at Whole Foods. Since it also causes gastrointestinal distress, may I express my hope that the President will join his wife for lunch?


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11 responses to “Head masks will be required before they play outdoors

  1. anonymous22

    Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) has been health foodies darling for a couple of years. It’s “whole grain” and “gluten free” so it doubles on the “I must buy it” scale by organic moms. The only way I can eat it is holding my nose, even when I add other ingredients I do like. There are recipes for quinoa burgers even but count me out. I stop at turkey burgers.

    It’s a cross between couscous and pastina, but not tasting as good as either.

  2. anonymous22

    PS: both links above are to Wiki article; the first should be to the GT article.

  3. Libertarian Advocate

    I know the SUV driving, iPhone yacking tennis mommies drive you crazy as they careen through and out of the Whole Foods parking lot, but you ought not beat up on WF too much. Its CEO was anti Obamacare (and the lefties launched a boycott that was easily countered with a buycott).

  4. I get cheap 4 lb bags of Bolivian Quinoa at Costco. I like to toast it dry in a frying pan, then cover it with water and let it simmer. Then just put it in a bowl and eat it like oatmeal. If you toast it first, like I do, it has a kind of a nutty taste. I cook more than I need so that I can let what’s leftover cool down and then add it to expensive prepared health salads so that I get more bang for the buck. It really is good and I like to switch between bowls of oatmeal and quinoa for breakfast, just to mix it up a bit. That’s not to say I am a devoted health food person. I wreck it all due to frequent Milky Way feedings and raid the ice cream bin in the middle of almost every night.
    Don’t know Quinoa until you’ve tried having it hot with a little butter one morning in place of oatmeal.

    • Sort of reminds me of the old hunters’ recipe for mergansers: place the duck in a Dutch Oven along with a brick, cover with chicken stock, add herbs and bake for 12 hours. At the end of that time remove the merganser, throw it in the trash and eat the brick.

  5. Our here in multi-culti land quinoa is practically a staple. Used like cous cous in salads, as a side with salmon, but not,in my experience, in a sandwich… Didn’t know it was poisonous soap as well…

  6. dogwalker

    {{{Groan}}} Oh, is there no limit? This post reminds me of the time Rush criticized Hillary for decorating the White House Christmas Tree (or was it a holiday tree?) with ornaments from American crafts people. I mean how can one deride American artists (as a group) . . . even if they are associated with Hillary?

    Anyway, here’s the list of all winners: http://www.recipechallenge.epicurious.com/

    Admittedly, there do seem to be a disproportionate number of Hispanic looking names . . . and names that are possibly Jewish, also . . . not to mention the number of names ending in vowels that aren’t even Italian . . . plus there is at least one more recipe using quinoa . . . liberal conspiracy?

    Why not look at things on their own merit, rather than associate them with some group for judgement and condemnation? Not everything consumed by the anorexic trophy wives is bad. Quinoa is good. Plus it is very handy because it cooks up very quickly, unlike other grains.

    I’ve never heard of it almost become extinct, but wonder whether that has something to do with the Spanish “encouraging” the Incas to cultivate wheat rather than quinoa.

  7. dogwalker

    Oye . . . effects of quinoa on the brain?