So-called "ancient grains" have moved with breathtaking momentum from America's culinary dissident fringe toward the mainstream — and now they've arrived. After all, what's more mainstream than Cheerios? In January, General Mills will introduce a new version of its flagship breakfast cereal, called Cheerios + Ancient Grains.
The new version of Cheerios will contain small amounts of quinoa, Kamut wheat and spelt along with the traditional oats.
"They're keeping their ears attuned to what's hot and trendy," says Topher Ellis, who's been monitoring the world of breakfast cereals ever since he and his two brothers fought over the prizes at the bottom of each new box. Topher co-authored The Great American Cereal Book: How Breakfast Got Its Crunch, and edits a newsletter on cereals called The Boxtop.
No one seems to know who first came up with the term "ancient grains." It certainly has little basis in history or botany. Spelt or quinoa or millet aren't older than oats or regular wheat; they're just more hard to find, and they've been relatively neglected by crop breeders. "You could just call them 'whole grains,' " admits Maria Speck, author of the cookbook Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.