Two Ancient Foods: The Avocado and Millet – Their Folklore

Certain foods, such as avocados and millet, have been associated with religion, healing, love, mortality, status and beauty. Look through any ancient literature, and you will see illuminating accounts of various foods and their “magical” powers on the mind, soul, and body. Therefore, it is no surprise that many of these myths and folklores play an important role in our own food choices, today.

Many of these claims date back to as far as 2000 B.C. Whether there is any accuracy to these references, no one can really say. While a lot of these accounts cannot be proven, one thing is certain: the two foods featured here are of great nutritional importance.

Avocados – Ancient Aztec, Mayan and Inca cultures believed that avocados nourished the body externally as well as internally.

Mayan folklore tells how the famous Indian, Seriokai, was able to trace his unfaithful wife to the end of the world. The lovers adored avocados and ate them wherever they went. Seriokai followed the young trees, which sprang from the discarded seeds.

In Mexico, the avocado has long been considered an aphrodisiac. An old Aztec legend describes how young and beautiful maidens were kept in their rooms for protection during the height of the avocado season.

Nutritionally speaking, the avocado is a good source of Protein, Vitamins A, C and E, and the B Vitamins thiamin, riboflavin and niacin and the mineral magnesium and other trace minerals. It is also high in potassium. (One cup of avocado cubes has about 900 mg.) Avocados are low in calories, contain no cholesterol and are low in sodium, making this plant a good choice for people on low sodium and low cholesterol diets. Moreover, since the avocado possesses natural oils, it helps lower the bad cholesterol. It is easy to understand why these ancient cultures made such claims to this unique fruit.

Millet – Once known as Panicum Spontaneum, millet has been growing as a cultivated plant since Neolithic times. As early as 2700 B.C., millet was ranked among the five most vital plants in China and was used as part of their religious ceremonies. The Romans used millet to produce a kind of mix porridge.

Due to millet’s inability to grow in the winter, this tiny, round yellowish grain was not able to compete for the rank of a principal crop as were barley and wheat in certain regions of the Mediterranean. A dry, hot climate and an arid soil were important if the cultivation of millet was to reach its fullest potential.

Today, the United States grows millet freely, but summer heat is not sufficient to bring the grain to its complete perfection. However, the use of millet in America has been adapted to produce a variety of staple foods namely, flour, syrup and bread and secondary products such as alcoholic beverages, fuel, and paper. Millet is also used in feeding livestock, poultry, and wild birds.

Millet is important in Africa, the Far East, and India since the bulk of their food consumption is from grain. North Africa, the East Indies, and Canada are just a few of the regions that grow millet.

This ancient and nourishing grain is rich in carbohydrates, protein, fat, the B Vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, and minerals. Millet also contains all of the essential amino acids. This grain can be purchased in any health food store and most Asian food markets. Moreover, because of its ability to increase in volume during cooking, millet is a great old grain to have around the kitchen.

Following are two recipes incorporating the two popular grains.

Avocado Pâté

Two soft avocados
1-tablespoon lemon juice
8 oz. container plain yogurt
1 package onion soup mix

Peel, pit, and mash the avocados. Combine remaining ingredients and mix until well blended. Store in refrigerator overnight. Makes about 2 cups.

Millet Casserole

1/2-cup whole millet
1 (16 oz.) can Pigeon peas
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cup cubed carrots
1/2-teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups water
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2-cup grated Cheddar cheese

Combine all ingredients, except eggs and cheese, in a saucepan; cover and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Add eggs and cheese and blend thoroughly. Turn into a greased 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. Bake in a 350-degree oven until browned and puffed about 30 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.

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Published on: January 9, 2017

Filed Under: Family, Relationships & Lifestyle

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