For how can one know color in perpetual green and what good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?
–John Steinbeck, Travels with Charlie
Amaranth. A hot cereal when days are still hovering at 85 degrees with equal humidity? Really, sometimes one wishes the summer would be done already.
Last month I was in Flagstaff, Arizona with my sweet Kella Bella and her family, where she turned me on to this divine hot cereal.
Say it aloud right now.
Amaranth. I love the sound of it.
See? It’s breathy and subtle; the “anth” leaving a small smile on your mouth, just in the speaking of it. I comfort myself during bouts of melancholy by saying words aloud that make no sense in the context of the moment, but coax an inner happiness to the surface; like a fish rising to the bait on the end of the silver hook, my mood lifts when certain sounds dangle in the air before me.
So what is this teensy weensy grain? Like quinoa, it’s considered a good source of protein and it also hails from the Aztec nation. Yes, it has a bloody history associated with human sacrifice, and maybe sweets were crafted into the shape of the national Aztec god, Huitzilopochtli, for children to eat, but hey, let’s suspend judgement: All hail amaranth, friend to the dietarily disabled. According to Wikipedia, “amaranth compares well in nutrient content with gluten-free vegetarian options such as buckwheat, corn, millet, wild rice, oats and quinoa.”
I miss the nip and bite of fall weather. Even though it’s sweltering here in the tropics, I’ve made amaranth twice this week and performed my ritual laundering of favorite warm sweaters. It’s silly I know, clinging to these wooly sweaters after 13 years on Kauai.
Pretty though, yes?
I’m reading Steinbeck’s, Travels with Charlie again. His books are one of the few I read multiple times. He is the voice in my head, and as long as I’ve known John Steinbeck, I’ve fancied myself a writer.
An observer of small things, is how I relate to John. A worshipper of the simple. Which brings me to this black bowl chosen to photograph the bitsy grains.
I threw this bowl on the wheel from black clay dug from some eastern source in Southern California by artist, Susan Yamagata and her friend, Todd. It was probably the early 90s when they gave me this stinking heap of live earth. As the wheel spun, centrifugal force exposed bits and pieces of living matter to the tips of my fingers. I remember lifting threads of moss from the wet mud. It was the lushest and most sensual throwing experience of my life. The bowl remains unfired.
Food is memory. Amaranth leads me back to Kelly’s kitchen. This bowl reunites me with Susan and Todd. Such a beautiful web I’m caught in every time I step into this kitchen. Reading Steinbeck again reminds me to open my eyes to all the sweetness, even if it is against a background of perpetual green.
3/4 cup Amaranth
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups coconut milk
1/4 cup half-n-half
2 tablespoons butter
Simmer for 20 minutes stirring regularly.
Add 5 chopped dates after 20 minutes, so they melt into the porridge. Top with my amazing cardamom granola and your favorite fruit.
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