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Did you know that, according to the Southern Rockland Co. Center for Wheatberry Studies, 99.99% of all Americans are not getting their recommended daily allowance of wheatberries? And according to the Wheatberry Institute at the State University of New York at Pulldata Myasse, just one serving of wheatberries a day can lead to higher levels of energy, youthful high-spiritedness and increased sexytude? Not to mention their effect on bowel regularity. So, as part of my work for the National Association for the Advancement of Wheatberry Consumption, I am dedicating the following blog post to the delicious fruit of the wheat tree, the wheatberry.

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I grew up in Michigan, but I lived in Texas for many years. While I was there, I learned to love Mexican food. In fact, when I was first visiting the college I ended up attending, a bunch of students took me to the most kick-ass taqueria on the planet and schooled the Midwesterner in the ways of chile con queso (I kept wondering where the chili figured into it) and horchata (still one of God’s great gifts to man in my eyes) and how not to order brains in your taco (don’t ask for sesos). I loved it, and I went back to that taqueria many, many, many times, and to its brethren all over the city in both restaurant and taco-stand form.

But secretly? I still harbored a quiet lust in my heart for Taco Bell.

I know. I know. I was living in a city with some of the greatest authentic Mexican food possible, and I still wanted Taco Bell. It’s like, I don’t know, willfully opting for a McDonald’s “apple pie” over the one your grandma makes with the apples fresh from her backyard. I know this, and yet sometimes? Sometimes, a Taco Bell value meal is the only thing in this cold world you want to grab onto and hold. I’m from Michigan, dammit, and part of me is still six years old and absolutely convinced that a packet of Taco Bell Mild Sauce is the spiciest, most exotic taste on the planet.

So when a bunch of relevant stuff went on sale at Giant, I decided I’d do my best to replicate a Taco Bell taco salad for my lunches at work this week.

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When I was first learning to cook –really cook, not heat up Steakums like I did in college — Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything was my bible. It’s just a really good book for beginners. Bittman’s recipes aren’t fussy and his instructions always leave room for improvisation. These days I don’t have much time to try out new recipes, but there a couple of favorites from How to Cook …. that I still turn to regularly. One of my favorites, especially when I have leftover steak (yes, that happens even in our ridiculously carnivorous household) is the Beef Salad with Mint.

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“Christmas! Coleslaw!” Emo Phillips used to say, back the in the eighties, when comedy was dominated by awkward, high-voiced man-children in ill-fitting suits, back before sullen teenagers with too much eyeliner and a cutting habit  hijacked the word “emo” for their own nefarious purposes and ruined it for the older generation, much like their spiritual brethren, the homosexuals, did with the word “gay” decades earlier.


Emo Phillips

Emo Phillips

Emo Phillips has faded into obscurity since the heady days of Punky Brewster, the California Raisins and zany secretary of state Alexander “I’m in charge!” Haig, but thankfully coleslaw is as popular as ever. But like so many other things in the United States, supermarket coleslaw is a) disgusting and b) way too sugary,  so I find it much more satisfying to make my own. In fact, if you bring this coleslaw to your next barbecue, you’ll be more popular than Pee Wee Herman in a biker bar. Now that I think of it, you might want to bring some tequila as well.

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