Taste Test: Kashi Pilaf

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

If you look closely enough, sometimes you can discern the profile of a culture in the history of a company. Take Kashi, for example. It originated in the pre-diabetes-epidemic early 1980s when a married couple well ahead of the healthy eating curve came up with an odd-sounding high-fiber and high-protein "pilaf" they thought could be revolutionary.

But that was the Reagan '80s, when ketchup was being pushed as a vegetable for government-funded school lunches, and few everyday people knew much about serious nutrition, let alone the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates. The Kashi product flopped - not in the least because it was sold as a "seven whole grains" cereal that required 25 minutes of cooking time.

But the persistent Kashi-creating couple had faith in their ideas and so they wisely shifted focus to niche markets like health spas, Olympic athletes, diabetics and heart patients.

They eventually achieved enough success with loyal customers from that nutrition-sensitive pool to stay afloat until tastes and trends changed in the diet-mad '90s. As the company began to steadily grow, it didn't go unnoticed, and Kellogg's opportunistically purchased Kashi at the end of the 20th century.

Now Kashi products are fairly high-profile, and they crop up in all kinds of forms: Go Lean cereals, granola bars and even frozen pizzas - several of which I've tried. But I'd never tasted the original Kashi product, the pilaf that started the whole whole-grain ball rolling - until now.

When cooked up "plain," the results (25 minutes later) reminded me of genuine and hearty Irish oatmeal; the lively Kashi blend of blond and brown grains was pleasantly texturally giving yet chewy and super filling, and had a nutty blandness highly improved - like authentic oatmeal - by adding cinnamon, milk, brown sugar and dried fruit.

I cooked up another batch using a simple vegetable stock and found the Kashi to be rather wild-rice like. I then dressed it up "Mediterranean style" as suggested by the box and loved it. The box's vinaigrette recipe yielded a colorful, tangy, aromatic and complex grain dish that would be an excellent accompaniment to chicken or fish in a delicious and healthy dinner.

Though it does take a while to cook (you can make extra for later because it stores well), I found this original Kashi pilaf to be versatile and fun to eat. I'd definitely buy it again.

Spot a supermarket specialty you'd like Taste Test to try? E-mail gbenton@columbusalive.com