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Puffed Kashi is indeed a wonderful cereal, far beyond the crinkled cardboard that usually passes for food. I loathe advertising, but when I come across something this good I have to recommend it by name. It is eight kinds of whole grain or seed, it is semi-puffed so it is chewy without being bloating, and it contains nothing else, no sugar, salt, or other such filth.

My box depicts a bowl full of the stuff with a silver spoon taking some out, plus a few raspberries, so it's discreetly marked serving suggestion in order not to disappoint too much people who expect to find giant fresh raspberries and milk inside. It looks as if this is an imported package, only slightly altered in reprinting for UK distribution: so it is possible this is what it now looks like in the USA too.

On the other side it tells you all about sesame seeds and the seven grains, namely oats, triticale, red winter wheat, rye, barley, long-grain brown rice, and buckwheat. These are flash-cooked in what sounds like a Romulan plasma drive oven for 15 seconds to open them up and render their texture perfect.

Invented by Phillip and Gayle Tauber, a "nutritionally-minded couple" from La Jolla, for enabling them to run round and round Carl Lewis taunting "slowcoach!", but is also perfect for noders who can just manage to dip one hand in a box from time to time for a fistful of food that will keep them going.

I believe kashi is the Russian for buckwheat, but on checking, I find my little dictionary doesn't have it. But kásha is 'porridge, gruel'.

They also make a nice honey-covered version and one with chocolate in it... which to me slightly defeats the purpose. I would avoid the Walt Disney film Sesame Seeds and the Seven Grains like the proverbial plague.

Kashi is a product made of sesame seeds and seven whole grains that have had only the indigestible outer hull removed. Kashi was "invented" in 1983 by Philip and Gayle Tauber, who decided they had a marketable idea and cast about for a name for their product. After considering monikers like Gold'n Grains and Graino (my favourite), they hit on Kashi, which the "Kashi family" website claims is a neologism formed from "kashruth" or kosher and "Kushi", surname of the founders of macrobiotics. Later, the website goes on, they found out that kashi means porridge in Russian and "implies" energy food in Japanese and happy food in Chinese. (I think they've played a little fast and loose with their facts here.)

In any case, in 1984 the Taubers formed the Kashi Company and begin hitting the shelves with their seriously fibre-rich "breakfast pilaf". Although at first many were skeptical about a product that had to be cooked for 25 minutes and uncertain about how to use the product, the Taubers' timing was good. Fibre was just being recognized in the media as a vital part of good nutrition, and a large group of consumers became enamoured of Kashi - health food devotees, vegetarians, diabetics, cardiac rehab patients, and even Olympic athletes, who enjoyed it at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. In 1987 The Taubers hit upon the idea heating Kashi until it puffed, and thus the cereal so enjoyed by Gritchka was born. Honey puffed Kashi soon followed, and then a high fibre cereal "that actually tasted good" (their words, not mine). This cereal is packaged in a box which says "from Kashi to Good Friends" and claims that the product is made of "flakes, twigs and granola"; besides kashi, it contains other grain products (wheat bran, corn and corn bran, oat fibre) as well as soybean oil, salt, and sweeteners like evaporated cane juice, honey, fruit juice concentrate, and malt syrup. Kashi markets a number of cereal variations these days, as Gritchka mentions, as well as kashi baby food and a slimming "system" called GoLEANTM.

The Kashi family website claims that in North America, Kashi means "Seven Whole Grains and Sesame with elements of purity, energy, spirit and health". Now doesn't that make you feel virtuous just reading it?

No? Okay then.

Kashi or Kashgar is a city of about 200,000 people in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of south-west China. Situated on the Kaxgar or Kashgar River, Kashi is an important trading centre for caravan trade between China, India, Afghanistan, Tajikstan, and Kyrgystan, and a route from Kashi through a mountain pass leads (eventually) to the Middle East. It first came under Chinese rule in pre-Christian times, and was visited by the Romans in the 6th century and Marco Polo in 1275. In between those two events it was the capital of the Uigur Turks and was a centre of Manichaeism; Uigurs are the largest ethnic group there today. It has been Muslim for a long time and many of the most interesting sights for tourists are historical mosques and tombs of Muslim rulers. China established definitive rule over the city in 1760, but it has not gone uncontested. And hey, wouldn't you know it? They grow wheat, corn, barley, and rice in Kashi.


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