How to Pretty Much Guarantee I Stop Supporting Your Farm Stand

Aside from providing me with a product that I know beyond a shadow of a ginger tea bag made me violently ill, there aren’t many absolutes. Just one, actually, and it’s really quite easy: Use the social media outlets for your business to vent and mock your well-meaning customers. Repeatedly.

I’m not making this up, and it’s not just been one isolated event or offender – thus the reason I feel compelled to say something – in the spirit of really, really wanting local businesses and farms to not just succeed, but flourish. I’ve seen it elsewhere, here and there, but the overwhelming majority that has had me really scratching my head (and clicking “unlike” in a few instances) have come from local farmers’ pages on facebook, so that’s what I’ll address.

I get it. Actually, I know that I don’t get it. I know that what you do all day, every day, from before sun-up to well after dark is exhausting, and as someone currently so deconditioned as to be intimidated by “seniors’ functional fitness classes”, I genuinely cannot comprehend how anyone does what small farmers do for any sustainable period of time without just collapsing or tilting over in a heap of “DONE”. I know that the actual agriculture work taxes you mentally and physically, in equal measure… and then, there’s a business to run. I know that you worry constantly, and that despite all the best planning, maintenance, protective strategies and defensive contingencies, the success or failure of an entire season (or even year) can be determined by a handful of elements entirely beyond your control. I know that you genuinely care about the animals you raise, and are emotionally invested in their health and happiness. And I know that you’ve been watching an art, science, legacy and way of life that you justifiably revere come under economic and cultural assault for at least as long as I’ve been alive.

Further, I know that the combined factors of general cultural ambivalence towards the treatment of the plants and creatures that become our food in this country and beyond; an economy that has faltered in ways not yet experienced by most people still alive and shopping today, and that has remained substantively stagnant or worse for many, including those who may never have considered their household food costs as closely as they are now required to do; and now decades of creeping adjustment to ever-shrinking factory-produced prices and quality – they’ve all teamed to create a perfect storm against you. A conspiracy of coincidence in which the market for your products has dwindled; many of those within that smaller market who formerly considered you a pantry staple are being forced to make difficult decisions between other necessities and your products; and the remaining folks who aren’t already sold on the difference and justification of value between your products and those at the big box around the corner are becoming increasingly difficult to convince from an economic perspective alone.

I know that I can’t possibly understand how hard your jobs – your lives – are; and that I’m a person who does think about it, and care, and wants and tries to understand. But encouragingly, we’re growing in numbers, and more and more people who may not have given two hoots about the source of their eggs or peppers or artisan loaf ten years ago are becoming more and more informed and impassioned than the mainstream has seen in quite some time, dedicating fewer resources and making bigger sacrifices you than would have been required those same 10 years ago in order to prioritize sustainable, ethical, local foodstuffs. We’re definitely still a minority, and we’re not all purists, but we’re growing exponentially in number and devotion, as you’ve no doubt seen demonstrated in increased crowds and vendors at the markets.

That’s where you have an amazing opportunity – in my opinion, both an urgent historical calling and a vital health and environmental obligation – to assist and educate these new patrons (and potential allies) as much as they’ll allow, and with as much dignity and respect as you can muster on an early weekend morning.

As a long-time champion of a tiny, uphill-battle, “why should I care?” niche cause, about to embark on further advocacy for an even smaller niche therein, I cannot for the life of me understand why, when presented with comparative hoards of people genuinely thirsting to learn about and support not just your passion but your livelihood, you would indulge any harbored, frustrated desire to dismiss or denigrate them. I have been asked, objectively speaking, literally some of the stupidest imaginable questions (and follow ups) about my disease and cause – some of them upwards of 100 times. And *every* time, so long as I am approached with sincere curiosity or even skeptical ignorance, and not rhetorical mocking, I answer as kindly, thoroughly and enthusiastically as I can manage.

It’s not always easy, and sometimes that “kind, thorough and enthusiastic” response is short and sweet because I don’t trust myself to go much further without getting snarky. I’m hardly saying you need to be a 24/7 walking patron of organic education. But I am saying that if I can manage to be succinct and polite about a cause that costs, not makes, me money, and do so most frequently when said cause is the precise reason I feel too terrible to be the walking patron I wish I could?

Come on. You can dig deep and wo/man up for a few hours at a time when selling your wares, perhaps bringing along someone a little more fond of and adept at doing so if necessary – seriously; I get that a lot of people who love agriculture love it because animals and plants trump people equally or more often than not (see: Cast of Characters, Faja). But beyond that? You can certainly count to 10 and check yourself before choosing to post anything at all, on your own time and volition, for posterity on an important face of your business, mocking the people trying to pay your bills

I know that every industry, or lifestyle even, has its own “insider” knowledge, and jokes that lighten the frustrations of the work – especially in those that revolve around servicing others. Servers usually know to steel themselves for a long shift, unturned table and some complex math when a table of 8 women come in for an 11:00am lunch. Retailers can veritably guarantee that within 13 seconds of perfecting a display, someone will come along in need of the one at the bottom of the stack or back of the shelf, kindly refusing your enthusiastic offer to help, thinking they’re doing you a favor. I’ve seen pharmacists physically brace themselves before relaying the news (beyond their control) that a patient’s insurance denied coverage of an expensive medication, or that a staple drug has been put on manufacturer backorder and won’t be in for three more days. And I totally understand, have participated in, and have a great appreciation for the stress-reducing value of joking and venting about these circumstances, privately, among other “insiders”.

That’s where you use your (very private) personal facebook page, if need be.

A sampling of posts I’ve seen in the last few days alone, all from pages of farmers participating in my local weekly market, and all of whose pages I “liked” in order to learn more about them and their offers, as I would any other business:

“I love the people that come by at 11:00 this time of year expecting eggs. All of the “good” eggs are sold out by 10:00.”

“I keep a photo album on my table at the farmer’s market which shows my animals and my crops from the beginning. But where do the customers flock? They go to the next table with all of the” pretty” GMO corn!”

“…What really amazes me is how uneducated the general public is about food. Many of them think that if it is sold at a Farmer’s Market, then it’s *good.* Wrong! I see too many farmers trying to compete with grocery stores with what they offer and when. Seasonal people!”

All of these things – that supplies are limited, and certain things go quickly; that contrary to most food porn and organic grocery ads, sometimes the “most” organic products aren’t the prettiest, and even crops legitimately raised by the vendors aren’t necessarily environmentally or nutritionally very different from mass-market ones; that unfortunately, some vendors are essentially just middle-men for the same factory products available at the big box around the corner (sometimes actually buying their products there), and unscrupulously trade on consumers’ understandable assumption that farmers’ market products are in some way meaningfully connected to the vendor – are important things for customers to know, regardless of whether or how it ultimately affects their purchasing decisions. But constantly barking at your customers to “do research!” and “ask questions!” means nothing when these are the frustrated, dismissive attitudes encountered when they we do.

Farming at all is hard. It’s painful. It’s draining. It’s thankless. Further choosing to sell your own wares, thus spending a lot of your limited free time as a jack-of-all-trades salesman and industry ambassador, instead of on your front porch with a well-earned cold beverage, is commendable and requires a skill set and stamina that many people just don’t have.

But it is a choice. And fortunately for us consumers, and the growing trend back towards eating real foods with clear sources, there are more and more people choosing to take on the challenge – people who are kind, and thorough, and enthusiastic about educating their customers.  And I count myself as incredibly lucky, because for all the other legitimate reasons I may have to be completely and utterly underwhelmed by this little zip code, the vendors at my market who do participate in social media are overwhelmingly in this later camp, and almost balance the scales against my ever-simmering resentment about having to leave town for anything more adventurous than sesame chicken or enchiladas.

These are people who understand that with time and respect, “fans” can become “regulars” who become “allies” and then “advocates” – that making the effort to teach and inspire small batch of chatty loyalists will ultimately be far more efficient and effective than repeatedly grumbling your seemingly paranoid admonition to “ask questions!”… of those other farmers.

So sincerely, to those of you who drag your aching, muddy carcasses to a keyboard now and then to post a quick Q&A you think matters, or add that exclamation point or smiley face to the picture of the tomato haul you’ll have Saturday morning? Thank you, and know that I’ll keep doing what I can to support you and spread the word about your existence.

And all you generational farmers and long-time vendors, who now have competition that offers local eggs and kindly customer service, and whom I genuinely do not want to see edged out and shut down due simply to world-weary cynicism, please try to heed this warning, and step up your game or step away from the keyboard. Save your venting for your friends and family, just as servers know to rant in the kitchen, and retailers cool off in the stockroom. It’s not just bad business, it’s bad karma, and there’s only so much apathy and entitlement most of us will take before switching to someone else – yes, even if we prefer your product.

Not up for social engagement, but understandably convinced you still need to be on facebook? No problem. A basic captioned picture here and there (ie, “today’s harvest” or “happy hens”)? Maybe an occasional “what we’ll have this week” update or “what I did today” line if you’re feeling a little braggy? That’s all it takes, really, and we’ll all just assume you’re busy taking care of the very reasons we wait all week to seek you out.

After all, I would think most farmers have spent enough time around rabbits to know Thumper’s basic, golden rule: “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” (You raise them – clearly you must understand their language on some level, yes?)

So, I’ll see you this weekend, with an enthusiastic stupid question or two, a large reusable bag or two, and a jacket pocket stuffed with cash.

Your move.

An Open Letter to the Middle-Aged Blonde in the Fancy Restaurant Bathroom Last Weekend:

Note: I wrote this, all stream-of-consciousness like, on my phone in the backseat on the way home from Fancy Restaurant last Saturday night, prompted by my indignant fellow diners to write something and post it that very night. After re-reading it, and still raw from the encounter, I decided to sit on it until I was sure I wouldn’t regret posting it. But I’ve seen and heard one too many “bitch needs to eat a sandwich” and/or “real women have curves”  floating about lately, so I decided to go for it. A few adjectives have been toned down, a few obscenities removed, and basic grammatical errors corrected (I hope?) but otherwise, from my tums-tossing fingers to your eyes…

You may or may not remember me. I actually really hope that you do. I was the, ahem, petite twenty-something brunette with the navy lace top, long mint-and-gold necklaces, skinny jeans and patent mint ballet flats, and streaked mascara.

If the outfit doesn’t jog your memory, perhaps this will: I was the stranger you insulted for throwing up. 

You see, I’ve just spent the better part of the summer dealing with a series of complications due to freakishly stubborn kidney stones. The whole ordeal was made that much more complicated by the fact that I have Cystic Fibrosis, and so the lack of appetite caused by the pain of the stones and their treatments has done quite the number on my already difficult-to-maintain body weight. I’m OK with this; I know that once everything is said and done, one way or another my appetite will return, and with it, a healthier, more physically and socially comfortable body. For now, I’m grateful that kids’ clothes are as cute as they are, and super excited that they’re so cheap. (Those jeans I was wearing were a ‘back to school’ steal!).

Enough about clothes (for now). See, the night you met me was the first “fun” night out I my family and I had been able to have in several weeks. We were having a great evening, talking and laughing like we haven’t in a while, over a series of courses of really, really good food. I had already been to the restroom three times – kidney stones make you pee, or think you have to pee, a lot – before I had the unfortunate last trip in which I met you. I was just about to dive in to my dessert when a wave of nausea overcame me, a rare one that I knew there was no point in trying to suppress.

Not that it’s any of your business, but I had a surgery when I was a baby that has made it literally, physically impossible for me to throw up. Even in the occasional instances that I really, really need to (Pro tip: discounted sushi night is not to be trusted). Thankfully, the times that I have needed to toss my tuna have been rare; but when they do occur, they’re pretty violent. After 20+ years of dealing with this, even rarer is the time that I can’t zen out, pop some tums, and suppress it until I’m home, or at least in the car. The fact that one such rarity was happening here, of all places, sucked.

Knowing what was coming that night, I had to psych myself up as I quickly shuffled through the dining room towards what everyone knows can only be the bathroom, yet again. I had to remind myself that this kind of gross unseemliness, while not a primary purpose, is in fact part of what public bathrooms are there for – yes, even the fancy ones. I’m mad I’ve had to worry my parents, casting a reminder of the omnipresence of this disease, and the general “curse” that has been this summer, over an otherwise delicious and lighthearted evening.  I’m trying not to allow space for the creeping worry as to why I’m continuing to have such trouble conjuring even the faintest appetite, and becoming so ill, so quickly when I can and indulge it.

As you’ll remember, I break in to the stall just in time to throw myself over the toilet and begin to heave. As usual for me, nothing but saliva, but the waves of attempts just keep coming. I know it’s not mistakable for a loud cough, and loud it is. I’m pretty sure they can hear me in the kitchen on the other side of the wall. I’m humiliated, but honestly, too grateful the bathroom is so isolated from general earshot, and in too much pain to care.

It finally relents, and I hesitantly stand back up, wait to make sure it’s really over, and quickly clean myself up – dabbing at the corners of my mouth, and precisely wiping to minimize streaking. I tell you this because I can only assume you’ve never suffered the first world indignity of faux-barfing in a fancy restaurant bathroom. Blink back a few times to make sure any errant tears have already fallen before I have to step out to the sink and pretend like nothing just happened.

I walk out, glancing quickly and awkwardly at you, my “sink buddy”. You’re standing at the sink, washing your hands, while alternately admiring your and furrowing your brow as you cut your eyes sideways in my direction. The way you are looking at me is freaking me out, honestly, but then I remember I was the one loudly wrenching not 90 seconds earlier, and not knowing the precise stage of the meal at which we were meeting,  gave you the benefit of the doubt. I intentionally catch your eye again, this time with a slight smile and a shrug, trying to silently say, “yes, that was me, but it’s no big deal; no worries, nothing to see here,” – but with no desire, intent or quite frankly, ability to discuss the whole mini-ordeal. I just need to wash up and get back to the table so I can get some water.

Now. Before I say anything further, I want to make something clear. I normally don’t pay much attention to the appearance of other women; if someone is wearing something I find interesting or flattering, I’ll usually say so – who can’t use a compliment from a stranger on a random Tuesday? – but you generally have to be pretty egregiously unattractive and unhygienic for me to even notice, and even if I do, particularly rude or hateful for me to care.

But you seem different, to be honest – like you very much want to be noticed, yet have an almost defensive disposition, like that of a scared but angry animal, or perhaps a teenage girl.

So,  I notice. You’re wearing multiple high-end labels prominently – as do many women in the general area around this particular restaurant – though to be honest, you’re wearing none particularly well, and all, too tight for your otherwise perfectly fine, neutrally unremarkable physique. You’re very blonde, and very tan, both very obviously from bottles and overdue for maintenance. No judgment here, honest to god. My roots could use a little attention themselves, and I’ve only quit bothering with the self-tan situation because I’m too lazy to maintain it as well as you are. I’m thinking, “Who cares? It’s summer.” And honestly, it’s all little more than passing observations; overall, I think, as I usually do about these things on other people, “who cares, period?”

I’m already refocused on my own reflection, debating whether to try to fix the mascara issue any further or leave well enough alone, when you spin on your heel and turn perpendicular to me, forcefully balling up and throwing away your towel. I jump and  look at you again – seriously startled by your abruptness – and given the intensity with which you’re sizing me up, I assume you must know me, or at least think you know me, from somewhere. I start mentally reeling through the catalogue of possible parents’ friends, friends’ parents, neighbors or other acquaintances you might be.

Turns out, there’s no need. Before I’ve even worked my way around my mental cul-de-sac, you scan me up and down, slowly inspecting me, but with a greater degree of predetermined contempt than someone simply trying to determine age, or style, or some other neutral curiosity. You meet my eyes, narrow your own, and growl, “why pay so much for your dinner if you’re just gonna come throw it all up, anyway?”

Wait, I’m sorry. What?

Normally when people make ignorant comments to (or more often, very loudly about) me – my weight; why I’m eating salad when I’m small; why I’m in public at all (even the pharmacy) when I clearly have the flu; why I’m buying x or y when I’m only 16, tsk tsk; how I should be so ashamed using “my grandma’s” handicapped parking pass – I cut them way too much slack, assuming the best or at least granting the benefit of the doubt, and also (I’m embarrassed to admit) way too concerned about my possibly curt or dismissive response being the only image of CF, or invisible illness, they may encounter – or even if it’s not, that it’ll be the one they chose to latch on to. And if they actually ask a question – a real one, for which they’d like an answer, not a snarky rhetorical one like yours – I’m so grateful for the chance to clear things up, and their restraint in judgment, that I’ll answer as kindly as I know how and as thoroughly as they’d like.

But yours was an unusually, undeniably clear cut instance of thoughtlessness at best, cruelty at worst. And so, to be honest? It was actually refreshingly clear cut an opportunity to speak my hurt in the moment, if not my heart writ large, with a surprising but welcome lack of internal pressure to “be a bigger person” or kindly explain to you your misconceptions while trying to spare your pride.

You weren’t interested in understanding, or learning. You were interested only in burdening  a stranger with shame in an attempt to deflect your own. And while I’ll do my best to come alongside and help another person bear their load when asked, strangers included, I’m finally to a point where I’ll be damned before I take it *all* on in addition to my own, simply because you feel entitled to drop it on me.

And so, for the first time ever in an instance like this, I just spoke, before my head could stop my heart. “Why do you bother to buy expensive clothes?”

I wasn’t mocking your wardrobe choices. I actually really liked your shoes, in particular (I noticed them under the stalls while I was retching), and I think your whole outfit would have been pretty adorable, unto itself as well as on you specifically, if it fit a little more comfortably. I think you know this too; believe it or not, during bouts of steroid-munchies and related binging on tiny American portions, I’ve also been on that side of the fence, where suddenly nothing fits right even though it all did two weeks ago and you’ve got 10 minutes to get dressed and out the door.  I had no desire then or now to call you out or counter-shame you for it.  But I couldn’t help but think, “even if I did just yack it all up, on purpose, I enjoyed it going down; likewise,  you clearly enjoy wearing nice things, even if their most utilitarian purposes – to cover and ideally flatter ones’ body – are being ignored. Since when, and who says, we have to be in a state of deserving perfection to enjoy that which is meant to be enjoyed?”

I’m honestly not sure who was more shocked at first, me or you; but you were at least taken aback enough, and shut up long enough, that I kept going.

There was no need to justify myself, then or now, and I know that. Nor did I feel obliged or interested in rattling off my medical history to you in some futile attempt to “spread awareness” about my “orphan disease” in this moment. I didn’t want to be “the face of CF” to you. I didn’t want to be “the face of a ‘naturally’ thin woman” or “the face of millennial over-appeasers”. I was too tired, too pained, too nauseous, too weary to carry the mantle or be a token for any of these things.

Just once, when bluntly confronted by another woman about my stature or my diet or my fitness, in a way most people thankfully, finally consider wholly unacceptable to do to larger people,  I wanted to just be another human face.

A face that represented a history, and a thought life, and a depth of spirit, and a circle of loved ones of all shapes and sizes and colors and sexualities. A face that contorts itself when the socially-sanctioned “girl talk” about our bodies and related dissatisfaction inevitably begins; unsure of how to tow the line between appearing sufficiently unhappy as to be considered humble, “real”, and therefore trustworthy; but not so much as to breed contempt as the “skinny girl who doesn’t get it” and is therefore, either damaged, unrelatable, or both. As a generic adult woman, period, I’m not allowed to make peace with and just function within my body, adorning it at my own will and discretion; as a generic thin adult woman, my insecurities and dissatisfactions with my body (yes, I legitimately have them) will never matter as much as anyone’s who is heavier than I, including the high school sophomores for whom I am routinely mistaken. 

Mostly, in this brief moment with you,  I wanted to be a face you remembered as an embodiment of the shared feminine experience of being reduced to my externality alone. If you remembered me, and this exchange, at all, I wanted it to be as a missed opportunity for support and connection, and a reminder of your choice to participate in the perpetuation of the very behavior that does have some women throwing up their expensive dinner in the bathroom of the fancy restaurant, until they finally can make themselves small enough to fit in to the boxes of everyone’s expectations for how they live their lives and how they look while they do so; and others, painting themselves in labels and other symbols of power to in an attempt to buy that which they do not feel, distract from that which they cannot accept, and control, control, control another’s judgment of that which they’re trying to hide.

And lastly, I wanted to clear any false assumptions you may have about people with ED I may have unwittingly solidified, as well as  jerk a thread on your clearly demonstrated prejudices against thin women generally. Your assumption about the intentionality of my thinness; the sense of superiority I must feel, strutting around all, I dunno, pixie-looking?; and most ironically, the security you must presume I gain from such (hypothetical and completely laughable) discipline and control over my body.

So I ball up my own towel, as forcefully and intimidatingly as one can…wad up paper, swing open the door, and before I walk through, turned on my own heel:

“And by the way, I have a genetic disorder that is the reason I just threw up, and the reason I’m having a hard time breathing standing here washing my hands. Statistically speaking, I’ve got a good three-to-five years left, so yeah, I’m going to eat well while I can, reflux and weak lungs be damned. Enjoy your evening.”

So. I hope you do remember me, middle-aged blonde in the fancy restaurant bathroom. And while I hope I made you think, and I really hope I made you stop a beat before kicking another woman while she’s metaphorically curled over a toilet, I sincerely hope I didn’t ruin your evening. I didn’t let you ruin mine.

And for future reference? If you dare come back to this particular fancy restaurant, try the brunch. I’ll be the small brunette by the window, likely coughing off and on, but otherwise laughing, talking, and sopping up the Worcestershire gravy on the shrimp and grits. Try them – life’s too short to wait for perfect to enjoy it, no? 


The Tiny Puking Brunette in the Fancy Bathroom Restaurant

Lemon Ginger Quinoa + Grilled Corn

“Editor’s” (cough) Note: Yet again, my attempts to actually photograph the steps here were foiled, this time by a spiteful camera battery refusing to warn me before just crapping out and going on strike. Pictures to come; in the meantime, just imagine rich, sweet corn and butter, with bright lemon, and sharp ginger and scallion, hopping around on your taste buds like smurfs on mushroom caps, in a little confetti party of healthy, proteiny, satisfying summery deliciousness. Was that sufficiently Bob Ross meets Alton Brown to entice you? Well then, Yaay! Read on…

“Quinoa? Seriously? but moooommm, whyyyyy?”

Because it’s delicious. No, seriously, it is. And it hurts my little grain-loving heart to hear people say they don’t like it. Not people who subsist on Pizza Rolls and Pepsi (no judgment, just no surprise). But people who really like – not just “have trained themselves to sufficiently enjoy” – other healthy foods with much more maligned and odiferous reputations. Roasted brussels sprouts? DONE. Kimchi? Down the hatch. But quinoa?

Squenched noses.

What is wrong with this picture?!

I couldn’t figure it out, for the life of me. It’s like rice or pasta you can feel smug about! It’s protein you don’t have to tear apart with your pointy teeth! It’s the pop rocks of the soil! It’s the chicken of the plains – it tastes like whatever you put in, on, with, or other adverb it! You can eat it cold, you can eat it hot! You can eat it sweet, you can eat it not! Not just for dinner, or even for lunch! You can have it for breakfast, or even to munch! (With apologies to the late 90’s Harris Teeter “Foodies” jingle).

Through sheer happenstance, I discovered and began preparing quinoa through bulk bin scavenging rather than a deliberate ingredient search that would otherwise have steered me down the grains aisle. With merely Saturday morning food TV research as my guide. Therefore, I only recently became aware of the gross disservice to America that is the package directions. The same package directions which far too many recipes based upon quinoa recommend you use to get started, and I somehow luckily avoided in my quest to bump up my protein intake without having to make myself sick on meat and nut butters.

And there’s where the “ick” factor comes in. When I tried to make this recipe last week, I wasn’t paying attention, lost count of my water/grain ratio, and ended up with the package directions’ instead of my recipe’s.

And so, yeah. Eww.

I get it. Any pasta, grain, bottom-of-the-pyramid-not-bread thing is going to be disgusting in unseasoned cooking liquid, and when cooked within an inch of debatable solid state. Likewise, in what I’m assuming was an attempt to avoid this porridge-like fate as the dish had to sit for a few hours, I’ve had a surprising number of quinoa salads from both deli bars and restaurant menus, that were surprisingly and pretty inedibly undercooked. If you’ve ever had fried rice from a cheap Chinese joint on a busy night, you’ll know the shock-and-ick feeling I’m talking about. It’s just as shock-and-ick with quinoa; but rice doesn’t have a reputation for “popping”, as does quinoa, so let me assure you – “crunch” and “pop” are not the same, and if you’ve only had the crunchy kind, my apologies on behalf of the chef.

So honestly. My love for this little (not-so) carby chameleon is not rooted in some pointy-nosed noodle snobbery. You’re talking to a girl who has gotten Costco-sized bags of rice as a gift on more than one occasion from people who do not know each other – and who took several years longer than her peers to understand what could possibly be unbalanced about a dinner of macaroni & cheese, corn, tater tots, and tapioca pudding.

That’s the selling point on quinoa, for me: think of any pasta or rice based comfort food, delicious rich hot cereal, or potluck salad that you’ve either long since stopped eating, or won’t give up but hate the way it makes you feel (physically or otherwise), and I would be willing to bet it could be wonderfully recreated with quinoa, and not in that “if you forget it’s supposed to be this other thing, then sure, it’s pretty good” way. It’s like a hippie food gateway drug, without even having to cover it up in not-so-hippie-food things (a la “any green veggie and cheese”).

This recipe is as easy as it gets – If you can boil water and use a whisk, you’re good to go. It’s just as good hot as it is cold (though I usually serve it as a cold summer salad, and only eat it hot after I’ve just finished making it because I have no impulse control around corn or ginger, for what that’s worth). It’s also gluten free (as long as your ginger syrup is also), making it a refreshingly flavorful and considerate block party or picnic potluck option for those used to eating before they arrive and politely scavenging among the crudités.

So embrace your hippie side, and give quinoa a chance. I promise you won’t need cheese.


If you have a rice cooker, I highly recommend using it to prepare the quinoa, as it not only allows for a much more “set it and forget it” prep, but most also allow you to steam veggies at the same time. I do so with the corn here.

If you don’t have one, get one. I’m not one to hawk one-trick gadgetry, despite my own penchant for collecting it, but I fully expected to really like having a rice cooker, and I LOVE it instead. It is way more versatile than I ever imagined, can double as a slow cooker in most situations, and unlike, say, a blender, or a chef’s knife, the difference in effort required for great results with a fairly-cheap one, compared to a shall-I-pay-my-mortgage-or-buy-this-countertop-appliance one, really isn’t that significant.

Another Note: the dressing itself is also great as a dressing for regular old green salad. However, you might want to replace some or all of the butter with a light oil (I’ve used peanut), and/or otherwise whisk in some extra lemon juice/water to keep it from being quite so, well, buttery. I don’t mind it; I just make sure to microwave it and whisk it up again until it’s good and liquefied if I’m using it straight out of the fridge.

Lemon-Ginger Quinoa Salad

adapted from Just A Taste, “Quinoa with Corn and Scallions”

1 cup white/regular quinoa, uncooked
1 cup black quinoa, uncooked
4 TBSP lemon zest, divided
4 TBSP fresh lemon juice, divided
2 TBSP minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter, melted
2 TBSP ginger syrup (or, 1 TBSP agave + 1 TBSP fresh minced ginger)
4 Scallions, chopped
4 ears corn
Salt and pepper to taste

Unless packaged and pre-rinsed, combine quinoa in a medium-large bowl (or crock of a rice cooker) and add just enough water to cover. Rinse thoroughly and strain (either using a superfine sieve, a paper towel or cheesecloth laid in a colander, or carefully with your hands). Combine the 2 cups quinoa with 3 cups water in a rice cooker*. Add the zest of two lemons (about 2 tablespoons), the juice of two lemons (also about two tablespoons), 1 tablespoon of fresh minced ginger, and a generous dash or three of salt. Stir to combine, and start rice cooker according to machine directions for 2 cups of white rice.

*If cooking stovetop, follow directions above, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.

If using a rice cooker, and it has a veggie/food steam option, follow appliance directions to steam the 4 ears of corn until crisp. If not, steam, grill, or oven-roast however you would normally go about cooking plain corn on the cob, leaving it just on the raw side of done. Shuck and set aside.

Combine melted butter, ginger syrup (or ginger/agave), remaining 2 lemons/TBSP worth of lemon zest and lemon juice, plus salt and pepper to taste. Whisk thoroughly to combine; microwave for additional 15-30 seconds (or otherwise reheat) just until flavors are thoroughly married, if desired.

When quinoa is finished cooking, toss to combine with shucked corn and chopped scallions. Add about half the dressing and toss to coat. Taste, and feel free to stop here if you prefer a lighter flavor. Otherwise, add the remaining dressing and stir until well mixed.

Serve warm or cold alone, atop a bed of greens, in lettuce cups or in a wrap.