Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Rice -- Food of the Japanese Gods

When you write a blog like this, your credibility is constantly on the line. So research is key to cover your bases. With that in mind, then, in light of my topic, I googled the question, "Do they grow rice in Japan?" The answer came back a resounding YES, so I'm on safe ground.

I've been eating a lot of rice, so it's a topic of interest. And just today in the local paper, they wrote about cheap, healthy meals, and rice came up Number One in two out of three instances. I started eating it a couple weeks ago, mostly because I used to like it when I was a kid and was feeling nostalgic. It is quite delicious, so good you quickly forget the lack of variety and basic monotony in each spoonful.

The rice I'm eating is the cheapest brown rice I can find. I also like brown eggs, since they seem more holistic, although I eat the cheapest eggs I can find, which always turn out to be white. But brown rice is just as cheap. Unlike eggs, with rice there's a big variety. You can get Uncle Ben, Minute Rice, wild rice, funky mixed rice (at coops), and plain bagged. Those are just the western varieties. There's also the eastern varieties, which tend to come in convenient 300-pound tough-meshed bales.

Speaking of Uncle Ben, I'm reminded of the old phone prank, from back before they could easily trace your number: "Do you have Uncle Ben Rice in a box? Yes. Is it his wife?" You didn't see that coming, did you?

Notice how I said the eastern varieties of rice come in 300-pound bales? The biggest thing we think of when it comes to rice is how much of it orientals eat. I've actually visited orientals at their homes -- personal friendships. I've been to a couple graduations and one memorial service, where we lit candles for a recently deceased relative, who would expect ancestor worship from then on. On all occasions we had rice, including something they called Sticky Rice.

Do you know about Sticky Rice? No doubt it's good (I've eaten it), and good for you, except it's taken from the pot by each individual reaching in and pulling out what they can manage. They struggle to separate a piece from the main wad. If you're first in line, that's a fantastic system. If you're back in the nines and tens, and all the others have already reached their dirty fingers in and done their worst against the wad, it's less desirable.

My advice to orientals about Sticky Rice: Have the cook scoop it out on to a shallow pan, cut it in pieces, then stack the pieces neatly on a platter. Using plastic gloves. Then your gods might look on you with more favor. I know I certainly would. I might even pray for you and turn the tide of whatever misfortune's headed your way.

That's what I wanted to get to, and almost forgot, their gods, who gave them rice. "You are Japan! You shall be known for rice! I have spoken, I shall perform it, my perfect will!" one of their gods, or several in unison, vowed. But why their gods didn't reveal the best way to handle Sticky Rice after all these centuries, and are just now speaking the truth through me is a mystery. Apparently I was born for something, and now it's accomplished.

I know they might say something like this: "We too have lengthy histories, and have developed many immunities, perhaps different ones from yours. Our gods blessed us with these immunities, which admittedly required generations of the weakest among us to die. But, naturally, they would've died of something by now anyway, so it may as well have been dirty Sticky Rice. Our point being, Die happy."

OK, if that's the tact their gods took, who am I to question the inscrutable? Their gods were smart enough, let's assume, to bless them with billions of tons of rice, they're probably smart enough to work out a system of eating it. Certainly the folks aren't complaining about eating it. I also think it's very good, as I said before, but I wouldn't want it as my main dish everyday.

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