Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Now I'm Eating Hemp: What in the Hell is Wrong with Me?

I reached a point this week when I was a little disturbed with myself.  I was standing at Whole Foods, ladling hulled hemp seeds into a container for purchase, and I began to question who/what I had become.  I looked in my cart.  Among the fruits and vegetables were things like nutritional yeast and agar.

What in the hell am I doing?

Michael Pollan wrote in In Defense of Food some rules for eating.  His first rule, page 148, is "Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food".  My great grandmother was a lovely woman and a tremendous cook.  I am 100% certain she never picked up agar flakes at Whole Foods and said "Yum, this will really just be perfection in my berry tart".  I know what Mr. Pollan meant, avoid processed foods with weird ingredients and ridiculous health claims on the package.  But when I look at anything trending as a "superfood" it seems like that is a ridiculous health claim as well.  And I am especially suspicious of unfamiliar ingredients, which I guess I have decided that I am going to purchase now and research later.

I read the description of how the agar flakes are produced on Eden Foods website and it is completely silly, talking about spreading the bars of seaweed on bamboo mats over the snow-covered rice fields.  Sorry, I just don't believe it.  That doesn't seem very cost effective for a product sold nationwide.    Vegetable gelatin and animal gelatin both seem to have their own pros.  Vegetable has more vitamins and minerals, animal more protein.  Like so many food items that I previously had no concept evoked such passionate emotions, I have found opinions on both sides purporting their gelatin of choice is the superior.

It makes my head hurt.

Back to my great grandmother.  Hemp History Week offers a hemp timeline which outlines hemp as a major crop in the US until it was outlawed in the late 1950s due to the psychoactive effects of the marijuana variety of Cannabis saliva.  (Apparently hemp licensed for use in the EU and Canada must contain <0.3% THC (interesting article here)).  The timeline doesn't mention the hemp being consumed historically, more in using it for products like paper and rope.  There was even a "Hemp for Victory" campaign during WWII.  So I guess my great grandmother would not have recognized hemp as a food source, but rather a material for industry.


Well, I still ate it.  My great grandmother called a green pepper a mango and never ate Indian food, which is pretty much as delicious as it gets.  We do live in a global economy and the food options and flavors have widely expanded since great grandma's time.  Hemp seed has nutritional value like any seed.  The hemp-and-herb stuffed potatoes I made were flavorful and uniquely textured, although a bit dry (probably my fault, I didn't follow the recipe exactly).  It was kind of like the healthy version of a baked potato with sour cream and chives.

I'm still not sure how I got so weird about food.