The naked child is me in 1971. The back of the photo says “flower child” in my mother’s handwriting. That was probably the last time I was naked in public. The other picture is of me and my mom making “seed paintings” in the One World Family commune I was born into. The beads are from my mom, given to her by my dad (I think). Pretty sure he brought them back from India himself.
Being raised by a hippie mother left an indelible mark on my culinary palate. While my peers are discovering the marvels of millet, raw foods, fasting, and sprouted everything, I have done my best to distance myself from these horrors from my childhood food legacy. The best use I could come up with for millet, for example, was to pretend it was Kix cereal for my Barbies. (Though I never got to taste Kix as a child, I knew it had to be less difficult and more pleasant to chew.) In spite of growing up to dislike brown rice and raw tofu, my mother was a good cook and there are dishes she made that I have fond memories of. One that I’ve been wanting to recreate is fluffy buckwheat groats with steamed vegetables served with butter and soy sauce. It’s earthy humble food that is beloved by no one but hippies and Russians, though in Russia the buckwheat is more likely to be the bed upon which a huge roasted pig is served.
The last time I had a craving for this dish from my childhood I followed the directions on the (very expensive) package of buckwheat I bought. The instructions said to bring the buckwheat groats and water to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Within five minutes of simmering it I had a pot full of buckwheat mush. Not to be discouraged, two years later I’ve made a fresh attempt to recreate the buckwheat of happy memory. This time I followed directions for making it the traditional Russian way. I brought my buckwheat just to a boil and removed it from the stove and put it in the oven for an hour in a bean pot. I’m not going to lie, the kitchen smelled wonderful while the groats cooked, but they didn’t look promising having the look of mush in progress.
When I removed them from the oven and fluffed them with a fork I realized that they were almost fluffy, which was encouraging, but when I tasted them they were bitter. Bitter? Frugality prevented me from throwing my experiment away. I put it in the fridge for a day. Sometimes magic things happen to leftovers, right? The next day I put on some Simon and Garfunkel, got out my mom’s old Indian beads and, determined not to waste food, I heated up the buckwheat while steaming some broccoli. I added butter and soy sauce and ate it. I don’t know if it was the music and beads, or if taking a time out in the fridge sweetened the buckwheat, but suddenly I was taken way back to the good parts of being the child of a Hippie. It was the perfect fare for an overcast winter day in Northern California.