Friday, January 5, 2007

The rice issue

I've been thinking.

I'm sure that Salman Rushdie, PG Wodehouse or Captain WE Johns would have all thought of more imaginative and evocative ways in which to put their point across but I feel my choice of those three words is all that's needed to summarise things.

I've been thinking a lot about rice lately. Specifically I've been asking how and why?

How on Earth did anyone come up with the idea of cooking rice?

Virtually any food stuff that grows has quite an easy path to the table top.

Take an average tomato. It doesn't take a chap with the imagination of the Harry Potter woman to realise that, at some point in history, maybe even before iPods were invented, a primitive man would have stumbled across a tomato poking out of the supermarket vegetable aisle. He would have taken a bite out of it, thought "mmm that tastes ok", then chucked it in a fire and realised that it tastes good when cooked. From that point on the possibilities for the lowly tomato are endless. There's soup, there's errmm, other things too, you know what I'm getting at.

Or apply the same logic to the average meat dish. It doesn't take someone with the massive brain power of George W Bush to come up with the idea of chucking a chicken on a fire, then eating the results. Don't get this confused with "choking the chicken", an entirely different activity, and probably very dangerous if performed over a fire. The addition of flavourings and spices would have evolved just from an understandable desire to add variety and enjoyment to the food.

Look at spaghetti and other pasta. It's quite logical that those Italian fellows would see the spaghetti hanging off the trees and come up with the logical plan of boiling the stuff to see what it tasted like. The natural evolutionary path would have seen the spaghetti being made into other types of pasta which would all get cooked in the same way.

This cunning way of thinking can be applied to virtually any food I can think of.

Except rice.

What on Earth would have given someone the idea of jumping into a paddy field, which probably would have just been a waterlogged field in those days, and picking the bottom of the plant out?
Then doing whatever has to be done, which I believe is extremely labour intensive and complicated. Polishing and all kinds of stuff goes on before it's brought to boiling point in just the right amount of water, then kept simmering for about twenty minutes.

Frankly I don't understand how it came to be such a staple food stuff. I'm bloody glad that it did but mystified about it. I mentioned it to one of my partners the other day but he wasn't really interested, just saying

"Yeah and eggs, how did they think of cooking them too?"

"Yeah, but that's a bit different isn't it?" I said.

"S'pose so" he replied.

I asked the rice question to one of my brothers on Boxing day. He said he thought I was thinking too much about it.

And that's the good thing about having a blog. I can ruminate on stuff that many may think trivial and someone somewhere might think I've got a point. I wish I'd thought of "Ephemeral ruminations" as a blog name first.

But,try as I might, I can't think of a food stuff that goes through a process as complicated as rice does just to get to the table. Don't say bread, that's way too obvious.

8 comments:

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Ian, Java, Mufee - I'm really, really sorry but I accidentally deleted the comments you had made. I hit the wrong button and they all went into cyber heaven before I could do anything. If anyone knows how to get them back please let me know or if you would be kind enough to comment again I'll publish them.

Sorry

RD

Darwin said...

I think the person who discovered cooked rice came upon a waterlogged paddy field which had got caught in a brush fire. Stumbling upon the strange new soft white grains rather than the usual hard kernel, he sampled it for the heck of it and then ran back to his village to announce his discovery. Cooked rice was born!

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

You could be right there Darwin. Maybe he was a fireman on the outskirts of Glasgow called out to a burning paddy field.

N said...

moral of Darwins story is if you find something soft and chewy in the woods, take a bite...you never know what you might find...

Indyana said...

Rd: you do that to my comments all the time I think... Why o why? well, your right about when you think abt it Rice must be the only one that goes through such a long route to the table.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Indyana - honest, I've never deleted one of yours at all. The only comments I have ever deleted are ones that I consider insulting to other people or spam, and those 4 that I did by accident.

I know the word verification thing can be a funny animal at the best of times, so it might be that. How could I ever deleted a comment from you, my best newcomer for 06?

Indyana said...

OH Ok! I'm sorry. I'm pretty silly and touchy at times. I blame the damn verification thingy!:)

drac said...

Wikipedia entries for rice and wild rice might help solve the mystery.

To cut a long long story short, the waterlogged rice variety is a relatively recent discovery. It was originally a dry grain (found in the foothills of the Himalayas?). Boiling the grains in water, well - even couscous is prepared in much the same way, right?

And I read all of it in wikipedia, so it must be true :)

Another interesting factoid I remember reading somewhere... Potatoes (or was it tomatoes?) were regarded by Europeans as poisonous and weren't eaten till a few hundred years ago. I know of the potato famine in Ireland, so perhaps it's the tomato.

And again, slightly related - one cannot eat cassava raw... That must have taken an intrepid soul to find out.