Bowls of grain
Words & Photography by Hannah Fuellenkemper
What’s in a name? Enough to market something that no one had previously paid attention to. Take my dad. When he started buying kale from the grocers (this is despite it growing in the vegetable garden – a place I’m not sure he’s visited for years) I knew that something powerful was afoot.
Then people started calling what had been known ‘before’ as the quick-fix-I-have-nothing-in-the-house lunch routine of scraping an avocado onto any old piece of bread, ‘avocado toast’. Like it was a thing. It had a name.
Now, some time later and many fads in-between, grains are getting it. Grains that happen to be served in bowls because bowls make sense. Ordinary grains in ordinary bowls. Say it was lunch and you couldn’t be bothered to go out to the store. You root around in the pantry and find two jars of grain dregs that, when added together, you estimate should sustain you until dinner. You know grains aren’t much fun as-is but hey, you’re lucky: you haven’t juiced all the kale. So you throw some of that in too, as well as anything else in the fridge that goes crunch. You toss all you have together with oil, vinegar and lemon and take a bite. Still tastes like grains. So you throw in something creamy/cheesy for that creamy/cheesy satisfaction grains just can’t give you. Better.
By now you have what I’d call a salad made from (what my mom would call), ‘everything under the kitchen sink’. But life’s not that simple and it’s also full of marketeers with influential Instagram accounts which, you know, you spend approximately a lot of the day looking at. Having done so ‘round about lunchtime, you give yourself a moment to accept that you, seemingly unlike the 800 odd people you follow, don’t live a perfectly curated life; and look at your lunch sat on the badly lit, non-marble counter top. It tastes good though, so you’re happy again. Plus, by now you also know that, actually, what’s sat in front of you is a ‘grain bowl’.
As I said, this isn’t so much a recipe as a way to clean out your fridge, but there are ways to make it so good your fridge will seem permanently empty. For instance, two types of grain are always going to be better than just the one (beware different cooking times) and heartier greens stand up better than salad leaves.
Then you want texture. If you’re using kale (who isn’t?) I like to fry the life out of it with oil and garlic so it resembles (as in, is identical to) crispy seaweed. Otherwise it’s a good idea to give your greens the time it takes the grains to cook to soften up with some cider vinegar on them. Roasted squash or sweet potato adds creaminess, so would some Greek yoghurt or a cheese like Halloumi or feta. Toast nuts and seeds for more snap, crackle and pop and/or toss some cucumber or celery, cut up small, with the grain. Mint and spring onion makes it fresh, chilli flakes makes it excellent. I use oil and vinegar to dress most of my salads but a lot of lemon juice would work just as well. So you see, no rules as such, just guidelines.