In the 90s I allowed myself to be drawn into the vortex of watching Mexican novelas. I rationalized that I needed to keep up my Spanish after my mother died in 1992 and I didn't have anyone with whom to speak. When I was younger I was horrified that my mother followed telenovelas and felt superior that I didn't waste my time watching inconsequential entertainment. With titles as, "La Ursurpadora" (The Ursurping Woman), "Corazon Salvaje" (Savage Heart) , and my husband's favorite, "Yo No Creo en Los Hombres" (I Don't Believe in Men) I slowly got drawn in and became "una Fan". I was gradually disabused of my former prejudices and I learned that a novela that has a beginning a middle and an end is preferable to one that has one continuous 50 year-long storyline as with Guiding Light. I learned that Mexico has a great tradition of movie and television-making, and I learned that Mexico has talented actors and screen writers who are able to take the age-old story of boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl-someone-inevitably-winds-up-in-jail-all-but-for-a-misunderstanding-which-gets-cleared-up-and-then-boy-gets-girl-back-and-they-get-married and tell it in infinitely interesting ways. This is how I spent the 90s and some into the Aughts.
One novela, "Mas Allá Del Puente" (Beyond the Bridge), got me interested in amaranth. One of the secondary characters was an attractive middle-aged, benevolent, every-inch-a woman who owned a night club in the port city of Veracruz called "Mi Revancha" (My Revenge). Her name was Amaranta. Amaranta. What a great name.
I started reading about amaranth and found out that it is indigenous to Mexico. I found out that of all the grains, amaranth has the highest protein content, is easy to digest and it has no gluten. It was cultivated by the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas and hunter-gatherer societies.
The Aztecs celebrated amaranth every year and made "rice krispies" treats with popped amaranth and honey formed into the shape of Tlaloc,the Aztec god of rain. They are still made in Mexico City, but they are called Alegrías (happinesses).
1 lb. Honey
1 lb. Amaranth (popped)*
1/2 c. Lime juice
1 oz. Dried strawberries (optional)
Gently boil the honey, lime juice and salt until it gets thick (240˚ on a candy thermometer). Add the amaranth and strawberries all at once and stir quickly and thoroughly. Press into a baking pan with straight sides and let cool. Cut into squares.
*Popped amaranth can be ordered from Nu-World Foods.