If you think of foods simply as sustenance or a source of pleasure, you have not noted the many changes in the preference for the foods items over the past 150 years, especially in the past few decades.
People have also moved from familiar grains to new ones, for reasons to do with agricultural technology, ease of preparation, work, health and social aspirations. This shift is more or less circular. Everybody is trying to get more of the foods, especially grains that better off people are eating, except the very wealthy who prize poor people’s foods.
In the late 19th and early 20th century irrigation allowed for increased cultivation of rice and led to people moving from the traditional millets and other dry land crops to rice. The easier de-husking and cooking that rice provided was an added advantage and urbanization continues to drive the demand.
Indians, like most other Asian Countries, eat more rice. However, the demand for it is slowly leveling off, as wealthier people are getting more of their calories from vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, and dairy products and are also switching to other grains.
India, which till recently was a wheat exporter is now a net importer
because of the increased demand for processed foods (bread, biscuits and such) and the demand is still rising despite the increasing cost of wheat. Rice, however as yet remains central to our diet.
Consumption of new grains, and some ancient grains such as einkorn, kamut, black barley, and of so called pseudo grains (See – Below), and some that were earlier only animal feeds (sorghum) being seen as virtuous are now found on tables. Consumers have acquired a taste for novelty and the exotic driven by the desire to counter the growing crisis of ill health.
Food fads are strange and powerful things and many arise from improper understanding of the effect of diet on health.
‘Little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing’, that has consumers going down cul-de-sacs and dead end streets in research for valid and effective answers. The convenience of packaged foods that seem to promise better nutrition and that of ‘fast foods’ all lead them astray. Hence, knowing your grains is important.