I was asked this month to offer some holiday food ideas and I thought of the roughly 50% of the population that suffer from some form of wheat intolerance, allergy or sensitivity and guarantee one of them will be at your Thanksgiving table.
With all the stuffing, dinner rolls, pies, and other wheat based food, maybe an alternative might be a good idea. The standard American diet (aptly referred to as SAD) is largely made up of things with wheat: hamburgers, pasta, pizza, sandwiches, cookies, even things like ice cream, hot dogs, french fries, and mayonnaise have it snuck in there.
Historically, wheat has been one of the most important crops to human civilization for roughly the past 10,000 years. It’s given us sustenance and the awesome gift of beer and has lead to the expansion of civilizations around the world. Egypt could never have had the longevity nor power if it weren’t for wheat – and the Roman Empire was only able to thrive from purchasing wheat from Egypt. It’s been so important to our own country it’s even in the song America the Beautiful: “for amber waves of grain”. The problem is the wheat that we now eat is a far cry from what our ancestors and even grandparents ate just 50 years ago and it’s making many of us very sick.
Our current wheat has been been modified or hybridized and it’s nutritional profile, storage methods involving gamma radiation and toxic chemicals and nearly everything it once was has changed for the worse. Context is also extremely relevant. Yesteryear eating lots of wheat made a lot more sense when you needed to stockpile calories, before there was electricity, and when people were much more active. Now we have an abundance of food options, few of us exercise and 70% of us are obese and millions are developing diseases based solely on diet and lifestyle. It’s no wonder this grain doesn’t have a healthy place at the modern dinner table. In fact there are many nutritional groups that argue grains in general are bad for you and eating a diet more similar to a pre-agriculture era is what’s healthiest. But thats a whole other story.
There’s a wide range of complications people experience from wheat — someone can have full blown celiac disease and someone else may simply have a wheat intolerance. One thing everyone experiences when eating wheat is a spike in insulin production which interferes with the bodies ability to produce hormones correctly, and when that gets messed with you can have a cascade of problems such as weight gain (especially abdominal fat), poor digestive, insomnia, neurologic and psychological problems, cardiovascular and reproductive problems, just to name a few. Myself personally, I rarely eat it but will never say never.
For this month I created a rift on stuffing, since it seems to be one of the most popular dishes at the Thanksgiving table, while trying to incorporate a local food that means health for us and the aina.
one medium firm ulu (not soft, or it will be too sweet), cubed into 1 inch pieces
one large or two medium onion diced
4 stalks celery diced, diced
2 medium diced carrot, diced
sausage of your choice (I like spicy fennel Italian); mushroom for vegetarian
2 tsp. rubbed dried sage
bunch parsley, finely minced
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
one stick of butter, coconut oil for vegetarian
salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400. Place ulu on a baking sheet toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for about 15-20 minutes tossing occasionally to brown all sides.
2. Cook sausage according to directions, remove sausage and retain any fat from the cooking. Cut sausage into small bits.
3. Melt a stick of butter in the sausage skillet and saute the onion, celery, carrot until soft, stirring often about 15 minutes.
4. Place roasted ulu in a greased baking dish, toss in onion mixture and sausage. Add sage, parsley and salt and pepper. When it’s all combined pour over stock and cover with foil.
5. Bake for 45 minutes at 375.
Sofia Wilt is a former park ranger and Hawaii County dispatcher who now works as a natural foods chef.