Rice, I love you!

My sister claims that our mom potty trained me with rice. She would put me on the little toilet seat and give me a small bowl of plain white rice. I would eat it, play with it, all the while staying put and learning a very important life skill. It sounds like one of those ridiculous stories an older sibling makes up to embarrass the younger sibling. Unfortunately for me, it is true and mom approved.   

My liking for rice thusly developed in the toilet circa 1983 and continued well into the mid 90s.  Besides milk, bananas, and my grandma’s parathas, rice was my favorite food up until I was fifteen. I liked rice more than milkshakes and ate it as if it were my job. My obsession was so vast that I could eat a spoonful of plain white rice, and know exactly which family member had cooked it and how long ago. Needless to say I visited some aunts more than the others; the kind cooked in my maternal grandma’s kitchen being my favorite. It smelled of Jasmine and butter. 

In time, my obsession slowly came to an end as I grew older and discovered newer foods. When I moved away from home I forgot about it altogether.    

Fast forward March 2010; it’s my bridal shower and I’m surrounded by about 20 women.  The room was filled with laughter and love whilst all the ladies scribbled answers on the how-well-do-you-know-the-bride quiz. One of the questions on it was what is Chika’s favorite food?   

For the record, coming up with an answer to this question had taken me half an hour the day before. I have different categories of favorites: homemade, late night, Indian, cold, hot, salty, sweet, etc. There isn’t one universal favorite and I tried to explain this to my sister. I shared my wish to eliminate the question on the grounds of being too vague.  She of course ignored me and said the stuff was already printed and there was no need to kill more trees because I couldn’t decide what my favorite food was. Fair enough.   

When it came time to reveal their answers, exactly half of the women yelled in unison rice with salt. It clearly divided the room between women who had known me since those toilet training days, and those who didn’t.  My answer was something stupid, like cereal. I figured the food that I ate the most of should be listed as my favorite (not really true). My aunts were horrified. The love and laughter soon turned into accusations of What the hell are you talking about!? We ordered an extra bushel just for you each year!!  

I exaggerate, of course. There were no ill feelings or burnt bridges, just a lot of laughter. For me though, it brought back memories of a bygone era when I only ate rice and thought it was the best thing in the world. In appreciation of that time I cooked some the other day. It was a medley of all different rice I had in my pantry. The result was a really tasty and creamy concoction. Give it a try sometime.  

Rice Medley
1/5 Cup Wild Rice
2/5 Cup Brown Rice
1/5 Cup Arborrio Rice.
Let soak in 2.5 cups of water for 20-30 minutes.
Add salt and a table spoon of olive oil to that same mixer and bring to a boil.
Cover and cook on medium heat for 12 minutes or until the rice is cooked.
Open the lid and let the excess water evaporate on high heat; another couple of minutes.
Stir often after opening lid to make sure it doesn’t stick.
The resulting rice is creamy like risotto and speckled with contrasting long grains of perfectly cooked wild rice. I ate it steaming hot with garlic sautéed kale. Equally tasty the next day with some kimchi

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Chika Gujarathi is a freelance writer and a mother of three from Raleigh, NC. She writes for national and local publications about lifestyle, travel, books, and of course, motherhood! Her most current project involves illustrating and publishing a children’s Hindi book. When not adventuring with her family in the minivan, you can find her riding the streets of Raleigh on her beloved bike Linus.

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