Jim Anderson

Eating ancient wheat

In Food, Personal Reflection on September 8, 2011 at 8:50 pm

I fell off the wagon last night, eating a small serving of pasta with meat sauce. Actually, I didn’t fall off so much as hop off briefly. It was a calculated act, not a moment of weakness.

My wife and I decided to try some fusilli (corkscrew pasta) made with einkorn wheat (a variety now considered a relic, first having been cultivated 12,000 years ago). I had read about this ancient wheat in reviews of Wheat Belly, a new book by Dr. William Davis. (For instance, see the reviews by Dana Carpender, Joe Lindley and Tom Naughton.)

According to the reviews, Davis draws a distinction between the wheat of our ancestors and the wheat grown in the past 50 years. Modern, dwarf wheat has been engineered to be faster growing and easier to harvest. It grows on a short, sturdy stalk, so the amber waves of grain are now history.

The modern wheat is far more genetically complex than the ancient wheat, with chromosomes increasing from 14 to 42. Unfortunately, making the new wheat healthy for people to eat was low on the list of priorities. In fact, it was not there at all. Davis links the new varieties of wheat to a range of health problems, including obesity, dementia, acid reflux and acne.

Oh — and diabetes and heart disease, too.

While ancient wheat still has carbs and glutten, it may be less of a threat to civilization than the modern, gene-spliced wheat. Personally, I was in no hurry to become a test subject. But when I told Anita about pasta made with einkorn wheat, and how maybe we could try a little some day, she immediately conducted a web search to find a supplier.

Giving up pasta is difficult when you are the daughter of an FBI man (Full-Blooded Italian).

Anita found the Jovial web site, which was running a special on its einkorn pastas, and ordered us a variety pack. It arrived on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, Anita started cooking spaghetti sauce. She modified the old family recipe some, cutting sugar and adding more meat. It turned out great. Frankly, I miss her pasta sauce a lot more than I miss pasta.

Of course, healthier or not, we weren’t going to eat a plate full of einkorn pasta. There are still the carbs to consider. We each stuck with a two ounce serving, covered with meat sauce, and added more fat, protein and flavor in the form of a hot Italian sausage.

The Jovial einkorn pasta has a red-orange color. According to the package copy, this comes from its high Lutein content — about as much per serving as an egg. The flavor and texture are fine.  It actually has flavor, which I wouldn’t say for most pasta.

A two-ounce serving has 200 calories, 35g carbs, 4g fiber, 9g protein and 1.5g fat.

I had been careful to eat very low-carb earlier in the day, but still went over my daily limit of 45g net carbs.

As far as I can tell, I experienced no negative effects from eating the einkorn wheat. I wasn’t hungry two hours later, nor was I suffering any digestive problems. I did not wake up this morning craving bread, bagels or bran flakes.

Then again, I’m also not craving more pasta, einkorn or otherwise. I find myself indifferent to the stuff. I’d just as soon put the meat sauce over spaghetti squash.

I’ll help Anita eat up the pasta we bought, but it will probably last us a long time. We barely made a dent in the box of fusilli. Yesterday may have been the first time we’ve eaten pasta the way the Italians do: as a side dish.

  • Demuralist

    Oh the sauce. My dad would cook it over a very low simmer over night. He left spoons next to the pot for those of us trying to sneak a taste! The whole neighborhood smelled wonderful. He only cooks it for Christmas eve now. I have always preferred it plain, I think the pasta just gets in the way.

    I am so glad this is available, but don’t miss pasta so probably won’t bother until it comes to grocery stores-then my boys can have pasta again.

  • Squirrel88

    I have to admit that pasta and garlic bread are two things that I do miss as well. A big plate of well buttered spaghetti topped with a homemade sauce and juicy meatballs on the side was always a favorite of mine. I also miss well made lasagna, home recipes, not that frozen crap from the grocery store.

    But, feeling those awful arthritic type pains in the AM in the hip area and and wondering if that problem was going to spread to other joints has totally turned me off to the flour/wheat/grain ingredients. It just isn’t worth it. Then I watch those Big Pharma ads on TV that push relief for this problem, while they ramble on and on in the background explaining all the horrible and sometimes fatal side effects, and I think, who in their right mind would want to risk that, why not try an alternative method, no grain, lots of Vitamin D, etc?