Rice

So, I completely forgot what time of the week it was and am almost totally unprepared. Looking through my files and my past posts I realized I’ve only posted one non-fiction piece, so this will be a second.

“Rice” is an interesting piece of writing for me. According to my professor at the time this would be considered a “creative essay”, basically I picked a topic and talked about it, tried to make a point about it. This was my first one and it is special because it showed me a non-fiction style I could feel good about writing. I’m not a guy who likes to reveal much about himself, so auto-biographical pieces never sat well with me unless I dressed them up somehow. Anyways, I have a few of these pieces (three in total I think) so I might post more of them this month. Hope you don’t mind.

Rice

“How can I free myself from sexuality? Eat nothing but rice?”
-Thomas Mann

Doesn’t that just make you sing want to the praises of this great food, a king among cuisines? Don’t worry, I didn’t either. I looked hard for quotes about rice, seeking the great wisdom of the ages, but the more I looked the more I realized that there wasn’t much of that to go around. No one would be found singing the praises of rice and honestly that makes a bit of sense. Rice isn’t a grand sort of dish like caviar, or patriotic like a baseball hotdog, or even seasonal like pumpkin pie. I doubt anyone has ever or will ever claim it as cuisine nobility, so what is it?
In the ranks of cuisine Royalty I would call rice the Peasant of the culinary world. It is plentiful in number, often overlooked, and tastes kind of bland all by itself. It’s also a work-aholic. Need some more heft to that taco, rice has got you covered. Need something to wrap around your sushi, rice is your man. Need a solid base for your Tai chili with chicken and banana, rice will gladly take that load. Just about every cuisine has adopted rice, or a close cousin, to lay the framework of their dishes, to support daring and bold flavors. Curry without rice is simply really soupy, really hot, colored sauce. Thus the aesthetic view of rice as plain, boring, spare it isn’t the exciting one at the party; it’s simply the repair guy fixing the sound system.

“Me, sexy? I’m just plain ol’ beans and rice.”
-Pam Grier

Should we just accept this status quo? Should we simply continue to push aside rice and focus on its sexier friends? Have romantic comedies taught us nothing about the dangers of pursuing the Kate Uptons of the world (I’ve never heard of her before, but the internet says she’s #1. That must mean something, right?) instead of the girl walking across campus? One of the most delicious things to ever hit my taste buds was a rice dish, with some seasonings I’ve probably never heard of. The rice was perfectly cooked, not mushy and wet like the rice from that Chinese restaurant or little pebbles that get stuck in your teeth, and it carried its flavor regally, with enough confidence and poise to shame any noble. I would have gotten the recipe, but it is rude to talk with your mouth full and by my third serving everyone else was leaving. Then again, that’s the point of the seasonings. To draw out the absolute best in foods. I tried rice once, completely plain, no butter, no salt, no pepper… I don’t eat plain rice anymore, can’t stand the thought of it. That’s the difference between people and food I guess, people provide their own seasonings. If you pay attention most everything is already there, but it is easy to miss. With food you can’t miss the lack of something, and it’s rarely already pre-packaged by Mother Nature.
What else can we say about rice? It’s everywhere by now, from Tokyo to Tasmania, the long way. What could we find from its country of origin? The wise words of great Chinese scholars surely can illuminate us as to the celestial importance of their staple food.

“Without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook”
-Chinese Proverbs quotes

Well… That isn’t very helpful. Probably made more sense at the time, when most housewives only had rice to cook. I mean you can boil water all you like, not much nutrition in it though. Let’s try this again, I even found something by an Emperor this time.

“A single grain of rice can tip the scale. One man may be the difference between victory and defeat.”
– “The Emperor of China”, Mulan (1998)

This is a great quote. The importance of a single man on the cosmic scale, how all our actions could potentially change the world. The foreshadowing of a woman disguising herself as a man to save her entire country from an invading army… That last one might not apply to everyone, but it made an impact on me. This was actually the first rice quote I thought of, the defining quality I associated with rice. How small a single grain is, how insignificant it is. I mean, you can’t even cook a single grain of rice, it just isn’t feasible, and eating a single grain? It’s barely an afterthought as the tongue darts out and finds that one poor grain stuck on your spoon. It makes a perfect metaphor for small things causing great things. Perhaps though, this quote is better in expressing the sentiment.

“A simple act of kindness the size of a rice grain can weigh as heavy as a mountain.”
-Anonymous

Nothing, when looked at closely, is truly insignificant. An organism too small to see can kill millions. Seconds taken to wash your hands can save you days of miserable illness. Seconds taken to cover your mouth can save a lot of other people from miserable illnesses. Taking the time to simply be polite to your fellow man can change a person’s entire life around. A single grain of rice can end hunger. Don’t believe it? There is a website I visit occasionally, not as often as I should but that’s my issue. It is called Freerice.com. It is a vocabulary quiz site, for every question you answer correctly they donate 10 grains of rice to hungry people. Since October 2007 they have donated 82,214,363,970 grains of rice. How does that translate into food? A single serving of rice, according to the Frequently Asked Questions on the site, contains approximately 19,000 grains. Do the math and you get about 4,327,072 servings of rice. Not enough to end hunger forever, but enough to give our fellow man a better chance, and it happens one grain at a time.

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Rice

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