Millet at the Health Food Store

My first visit to a health food store was in 1955. I was on a mission. I had read about the five sacred grains of China, wheat, rice, barley, soy beans and millet. I was after millet.

Being a 12 year old boy back then implies a lack of sophistication more common to a 7 year old today. I didn’t understand what the store was about.

Ann’s Health Foods seemed small and dark. There were lots of little items on wood shelves. There were wooden kegs holding items under tight lids. It had the appearance of a movie western general store, only shrunken to fit the proprietor.

She was a petite woman that I thought of as old. Considering how much longer she lived after I met her, she was not really an old woman. She did have the self-possession that we often find in elders. She knew she was different. She was ready to advocate, even defend that difference.

I asked her for the millet. What did I hope to gain from millet? As a boy raised on the icons of Popeye and Mighty Mouse, it was clear that certain foods could impart super powers. And I desperately needed a super power. (You can see why I’m drawn to superfoods!)

After a brief interaction with the intimidating shop keeper, I left the store with a small paper bag of ground millet and another small bag of raw sunflower seeds.

The sunflower seeds weren’t bad. They raised my hop0e for the millet.

My mom helped me prepare the millet by adding water and helping keep an eye on the pot while it came to a boil. Soon, it was ready, but my hopes were crushed.

It had a bland, different taste, not a good combination. I’m sure I underseasoned it. If I had thought of adding sugar and milk, as I did to cream of wheat, it may have passed muster.

Millet did not take a place in my diet. I did not return to a health food store for fifteen years.

I did continue getting sunflower seeds. There was a deli on the way home from school, when I walked or biked. It had roasted, salted sunflower seeds. They had a much better flavor. Sometimes I got roasted, salted pumpkin seeds, called pepitas, and targetted to Tampa’s Latino community.

When I did begin frequenting the health food store again, Ann had a new location. Her store was bigger and brighter. Oddly, she was about the same age.

I don’t go to health food stores as often these days. The supermarkets have brought in so many items that I used to get at the health food store. But, I haven’t seen any millet.

Maybe it’s time to go on down to the health food store and get a bag of ground millet. Maybe all it needs is maple syrup and a little hemp milk.


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