The problem is we are not eating food anymore, we are eating food-like products. —Alejandro Junger
Here in Montréal, winter never leaves us without a good fight; spring never arrives with enough resolve. These first official weeks of spring are a season of their own, an in-between season one could say.
Sadly, a lot of the food we eat today is much the same; it’s in-between. We think of it as food, but really, a lot of what is sold as food these days is nothing more than food-like products—ultra-refined, stripped of any nutritional content, loaded with artificial flavour and colouring, and preservatives. It’s made to look good, taste even better, but whether we are ready to admit it or not, it’s making us sick.
Are we allergic to food or are we increasingly allergic to what has been done to it? —Robyn O’Brien
Take for example, the ancient grain, wheat. In its whole, unprocessed state, it’s a very healthy food item. It has sustained human life for more than 12000 years (How incredible is that?) and is a dietary staple for most of the world today. However, in the last one hundred or so years, industrialization of agriculture has turned this ancient sustenance and its products into nothing more than empty calories. There is a growing movement that blames wheat for a lot of our present-day health-related issues, but I don’t believe wheat is the problem, but instead, what we have done to it.*
The photo above shows wheat kernels, whole and unprocessed. Wheat porridge is as ancient as wheat itself and it makes for a nutritious wholesome breakfast. Perhaps not the most exciting breakfast, but surely a healthy one. Dress it up as you like; baked apples, poached pears, fresh seasonal berries, or even dried fruits, a sprinkle of chopped nuts or seeds, a drizzle of honey… it can most certainly be an exciting breakfast as well! (I have purposefully not dressed up the porridge in my photos; wheat is the star of this dish and I wanted to show it as the beautiful superfood that it is.)
- 90 g whole wheat berries
- 210 g milk of your choice
- sweetener of your choice to taste (I use about 2 tsp honey)
- spices of your choice to taste (cinnamon, cardamom, chai masala… )
- optional flavouring, 1 tsp rose water or orange blossom water
- optional toppings of your choice (fresh or dried fruits, chopped nuts… )
- Wash berries and soak in 3 cups of warm water for 24 hours.
- When ready to use, rinse and drain the berries.
- In a medium-sized pot, add berries along with 900 g of water
- Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer (covered) for 45 minutes. The berries should be cooked, soft and chewy, some may start to crack open and very little water will be remaining. If there is still too much water and the berries are not al dente, continue to simmer for longer. If the berries are al dente, you may discard the remaining water.
- Add milk, sweetener and spices to the pot and bring to a boil. Stir in rose water or orange blossom water if using.
- Serve hot with toppings of your choice if so desired.
NOTE: You can most certainly cook a big batch of wheat berries ahead of time, they will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days. This way the 45 minutes cooking time is removed from the morning rush.
*There’s a lot of information on this topic on the Internet, as well as published books. Here are two to start with.
- Cooked, Michael Pollan, 2013
- 100 million years of food: what our ancestors ate and why it matters today, Stephen Le, 2016