Quinoa salad. It’s a go-to for most people today. Summer parties, spring gatherings, winter sees sweet potatoes added, fall shindigs, it’s there for us every season. Of course America doesn’t grow it themselves, they’ve got Bolivia and Peru to do it for them, right? Those two countries together produce 99% of the quinoa imported into the U.S., while commercial production of it in the states remains under 10,000 pounds a year. Quinoa has been hand in hand with maize in South American diets for hundreds of years, dating back to 1200AD, when the Incan Empire began to emerge. The problem with quinoa today is that global interest has increased so much that Peru and Bolivia are exporting more to the increasingly greedy mouths of Westerners, specifically Americans. The price then rises in those countries, taking away cheap access to a traditional food that provides 5grams of protein per serving, along with significant amounts of manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, fiber, folate, and zinc.
Its popularity isn’t all bad though. Quinoa is a great building block of any meal, and your body will thank you for filling it with a substance that will nourish it. The resurgence of this ancient grain shows that there is hope for traditional food knowledge, whether it be in South or North America. I took it upon myself to look at two specific Quinoa salad recipes, one from a modern day cookbook, Thug Kitchen, which is my personal favorite, and one from a traditional cookbook, called Foods of the Americas. Originally I wanted to see if the traditional recipe called for any specific ingredients that one wouldn’t be able to find in just any mainstream grocery store, but the most “out there” ingredient was hominy, which is just dried maize kernels that have been treated with alkali. I did my best to buy organically grown ingredients for both of the recipes. The food preparation was more extensive with the Roasted Beet, Kale, and Quinoa Salad from Thug Kitchen, so I threw on a giant pot of quinoa to boil and began chopping away. When all was said and done, I had cooked 3 cups of quinoa. As a person who regularly consumes and cooks quinoa, trust me, that’s A LOT of quinoa.
At the end of all the cooking, I left out both salads for my roommates to taste. The general consensus was that the Thug Kitchen recipe was better. Personally, I’ve eaten that salad so many times I welcomed the change of flavors with open arms. That, and I really like hominy. It was also fun to incorporate my roommates taste buds into this project, and teach them a little about hominy…it’s not normally found in our pantry.